Luís de Camões Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

0111204890-Camoes.jpg Luís de Camões (Library of Congress) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Although Luís de Camões does not seem to have tried to compete with his great compatriot, the dramatist Gil Vicente, Camões did write three short autos (short plays). Enfatriões (pr. 1540; amphytrions), an adaptation of Plautus’s comedy, was probably staged in 1540 as a scholar’s exercise or for an academic celebration at Coimbra University. The El-Rei Seleuco (pr. c.1542; the play of King Seleuco), based on Plutarch, was performed in the home of Estácio da Fonseca, one of the king’s officials, perhaps on the occasion of a wedding, very likely in 1542 during the poet’s sojourn in Lisbon and at court. Finally, Filodemo, the longest, most classical, and most mature of Camões’s plays, was presented in Goa in 1555 to honor the newly appointed governor of India, Francisco Barreto.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

No Iberian lyric poet has been more successful than Luís de Camões in the expression of feeling. Indeed, he represents all of Peninsular poetry at its peak. George Gordon, Lord Byron, whose inspiration introduced new emotion into literature, admired the authenticity of Camões’s lyricism and understood the human truth in his verse. In all his work, Camões was able to combine native Portuguese traditions with the classical influences and with the vital spirit of the Renaissance.

Camões is probably best known for his epic poem, The Lusiads. The focal point in this work is not Vasco da Gama, realistically characterized as the uncultivated captain that he was, but the Portuguese conquistadores as a whole—who, in the tradition of their ancestors, set out to create the vast Portuguese Empire for themselves and posterity. Although Camões wrote his propaganda to glorify the nation at its peak, he recognized the weakness of the imperial structure for the future. Such objectivity regarding the empire—and the honesty to express his views to the king, to whom he dedicated his poem—bespeak Camões’s faith in the best principles of the Renaissance and his confidence in himself as the poet most representative of his time.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

What is the principal preoccupation of Luis de Camões’s lyric poetry?

How did Camões’s sojourn in Asia affect the subject matter of his writing?

How does Camões’s Portuguese nationality operate as his subject matter in The Lusiads?

How is Camões seen differently in Portugal and in the English-speaking world?


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Bell, Aubrey F. G. Luis de Camões. London: Oxford University Press, 1923. This is a brief treatment that includes a biography of the poet, a description of his moral character as revealed by the poetry, an analysis of The Lusiads, and a chapter entitled “Camões as Lyric and Dramatic Poet.” A difficult book, its approach assumes that the reader is familiar with previous biographies and with the major Romance languages.

Bowra, C. M. “Camões and the Epic of Portugal.” In From Virgil to Milton. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1945. An explication of The Lusiads as an epic poem, a poem of the ideal in manhood, demonstrating Camões’ indebtedness to classical tradition and especially to Homer, Vergil, and Ariosto. The discussion of how the poet reconciles his use of pagan divinities with his Christian message is particularly illuminating.

Burton, Richard Francis. Camoens: His Life and His Lusiads. 2 vols. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1881. This is a commentary on The Lusiads in five sections: biography; bibliography emphasizing English translations; history and chronology of Portugal through the death of the poet; geographical study of the world as it was understood by da Gama and Camões; and annotations of specific passages in the poem. Appendix includes a table of important episodes in the poem and a glossary.

Freitas, William. Camoens and His Epic: A Historic,...

(The entire section is 557 words.)