Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219
If you’re sitting down to write the basics about The Lusiads , by Louis Vaz De Camoes, it helps to begin with a few key facts, such as that it was written in the late 16th century in Portugal, or that it is a narrative poem written in four parts....
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If you’re sitting down to write the basics about The Lusiads, by Louis Vaz De Camoes, it helps to begin with a few key facts, such as that it was written in the late 16th century in Portugal, or that it is a narrative poem written in four parts. The first part introduces the heroes, and these are the Lusiads, which represents the Portuguese people.
Then, there is a prayer to nymphs from the Portuguesa river Tagus, a dedication to King Sebastian I of Portugal, and then the whole epic. This part doesn’t start until stanza 19, however. The poem includes elements such as the Greek god Jupiter and general praise for Portugal as a country.
It goes through the fated nature of the Portuguese people, including the feats that they have accomplished during and before the time of the poem. This includes discovering new worlds and conquering them.
The poem ends at a placed called The Island of Love, where the ancient Greek God of Wine, Bacchus, proclaims that the Portuguese people have become like gods themselves. When writing your summary, it’s also important to note that the main point of the poem is clearly to praise Portugal in general, and the plot is in service of that goal and is less important on its own.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 526
Vasco da Gama is the chief character in The Lusiads, but he is not its hero. The poem’s title derives from Lusitania, the Roman name for the province that roughly encompasses present-day Portugal. The nation of Portugal and all of its people are the true heroes of this patriotic epic.
The Lusiads is written in ottava rima, a rhyme scheme of Italian origin that was commonly used in Renaissance epic poetry. An ottava rima stanza has eight lines with three rhymes, following the rhyme scheme abababcc. It is a flowing meter that allows the narrative to move smoothly, and the long, assonant rhymes have a kind of lulling quality.
The Lusiads begins in medias res, or in the middle of the action. Vasco da Gama and his Portuguese crewmen are in the East African kingdom of Malindi, having survived rough weather and an ambush. The local king encourages Gama to recite the history of the Portuguese people, which he does, going back to ancient times.
Gama tells the story of the Roman general Quintus Sertorius, whose successful rebellion drove a repressive regime out of Hispania (now Portugal and Spain). Gama then describes the growth of Portugal from a small principality to a significant European state. The story culminates in book 4, with the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, in which the Portuguese defeated the Spanish kingdom of Castile and restored the Portuguese monarch to the throne. Camões’s patriotism is evident is his description of Portuguese general Nuno Álvares Pereira’s victory over Spain:
O’er Tago’s waves his gallant band he led,And humbled Spain in every province bled;Sevilia’s standard in his spear he bore,And Andulsia’s ensigns kept in gore.Low in the dust distresst Castilia mourned,And bathed in tears each eye to heaven was turnedThe orphans, widows, and the hoary sires;And heaven relenting quench’d the raging firesOf mutual hate. . . .
After this battle, the Portuguese were able to launch overseas explorations, and these initial voyages are delineated in the poem. Finally, Gama tells the story of his own voyage, his circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope, which the Portuguese called the Cape of Storms. It is here that the most supernatural elements of the poem appear: Adamastor and a maritime apparition. Along with these fantastic elements, book 4 also contains highly realistic details of a ravaging disease.
The Lusiads includes an account of the battle between the goddess Venus, who is a “divine” advocate on behalf of the Portuguese, and Bacchus, the patron god of Asia who tries to prevent the Portuguese from having a successful voyage. Bacchus represents both the irrationality of the non-European world and the limits of human daring and exploration that the Portuguese, through their bravery and fortitude, are seeking to transcend. Despite the warm reception extended by the king of Malindi, some Asians and Africans resented the Portuguese exploration because it infringed upon the lives of the Muslims and Hindus who resided on these continents. Camões’s poem depicts the introduction of Christianity to the non-European world as a result of the Portuguese and Spanish explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.