Luís de Camões

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Luís Vaz de Camões (Portuguese pronunciation: [luˈiʃ vaʃ dɨ kaˈmõȷ̃ʃ]; sometimes rendered in English as Camoens; c. 1524 – June 10, 1580) is considered Portugal's, and the Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads). His recollection of poetry The Parnasum of Luís de Camões was lost in his lifetime.

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Life

Many details concerning the life of Camões remain unknown, but he is thought to have been born around 1524. Luís Vaz de Camões was the only child of Simão Vaz de Camões and wife Ana de Sá de Macedo[1]. His birthplace is unknown. Lisbon, Coimbra or Alenquer are frequently presented as his birthplace, although the latter is based on a disputable interpretation of one of his poems.

Camões belongs to a family originating from the northern Portuguese region of Chaves near Galicia. At an early age, his father Simão Vaz left his family to discover personal riches in India, only to die in Goa in the following years. His mother later re-married.

Camões lived a semi-privileged life and was educated by Dominicans and Jesuits. For a period, due to his familial relations he attended the University of Coimbra, although records do not show him registered (he participated in courses in the Humanities). His uncle, Bento de Camões, is credited with this education, owing to his position as Prior at the Monastery of Santa Cruz and Chancellor at the University of Coimbra. He frequently had access to exclusive literature, including classical Greek, Roman and Latin works, read Latin, Italian and wrote in Spanish.

Camões, as his love poetry can attest, was a romantic and idealist. It was rumored that he fell in love with Catherine of Ataíde, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, and also the Princess Maria, sister of John III of Portugal. It is also likely that an indiscreet allusion to the king in his play El-Rei Seleuco, as well as these other incidents may have played a part in his exile from Lisbon in 1548. He traveled to the Ribatejo where he stayed in the company of friends who sheltered and fed him. He stayed in the province for about six months.

He enlisted in the overseas militia, and traveled to Ceuta in the fall of 1549. During a battle with the Moors, he lost the sight in his right eye. He eventually returned to Lisbon in 1551, a changed man, living a bohemian lifestyle. In 1552, during the religious festival of Corpus Christi, in the Largo do Rossio, he injured Gonçalo Borges, a member of the Royal Stables. Camões was imprisoned. His mother pleaded for his release, visiting royal ministers and the Borges family for a pardon. Released, Camões was ordered to pay 4,000 réis and serve three-years in the militia in the Orient.

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