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Book PaperLuís de Camões, The Lusiads, 1572. Submitted byTanner ReedAP European HistoryJan. 6, 2017The LusiadsThe Lusiads begins in medias res. Vasco da Gama and his Portuguese sailors are in the East African kingdom of Malindi, having weathered a storm and an ambush. The local king encourages Gama to recite the history of the Portuguese, Gama recites it going back all the way to ancient times.Gama tells the story of the Roman general Quintus Sertorius, who had successful rebellion that drove a regime out of “Hispania” (now Portugal and Spain). Gama then describes the growth of Portugal from a small state into a significant European power. The story it’s peaks in book 4, with the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota, when the Portuguese defeat the Castile and restored the Portuguese to the throne. Camões’s patriotism is shown in his description of Portuguese general Nuno Álvares Pereira’s victory over Spain.After this battle, the Portuguese were able to launch overseas explorations, and these first voyages are recorded in the book. 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 book appears: “Adamastor and a maritime apparition.” Along with these fantastic elements, book 4 also contains highly realistic details of a horrible disease.The Lusiads includes an account of the battle between the Roman goddess Venus, who is a “divine” advocate on behalf of the Portuguese, and Bacchus, the supporting god of Asia who tries to prevent the Portuguese from having a successful trip to Asia. Bacchus represents both the irrationality of the non-European world and the limits of human daring. Despite the warm extended hand by the king of Malindi, some Asians and Africans resented the Portuguese exploration because it infringed upon their lives and of the Muslims and Hindus who lived on these continents. Camões’s book tells the tale of the introduction of Christianity to the non-European world as a result of the Portuguese and Spanish explorations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.AnalysisThe Lusiads is a book roughly based off of Homer’s Iliad. Its readers can expect the book to include and the “divine machinery.” (the Pagan Gods interfering in the action) Most of these elements, especially the gods, are what make up The Lusiads, although their presence is a little unsettling in a work that seems to be very Christian. Luís de Camões, promises a new point of view on on the word valor. It is a rather bold move to transfer these types of works into the new modern european world. Even when the sailors are promised a heroic story rather than of love. the book turns out to be a romantic tale regardless of the promise.Camões does not “update” the element of interfering gods. The gods belong to the ancient world, and they always seem a little out of place in such a setting as the Lusiads. However, adding a Christian God with power even beyond that of Jupiter makes the roles of the gods very confusing. Mythically, Bacchus is connected with the founding of Portugal, but he opposes Portuguese exploration because he does not want them to be a business rival to him. Venus appears to have been chosen by Camões as the supporter of Portugal. Camões carries to the extreme, One of Vergil’s staple moves as a poet is his incorporation of history into his works. All of canto 3 and most of canto 4 of The Lusiads are devoted to an account of Portuguese history. The book also has a description of the history of India.Camões is not a dramatic writer like Homer is. When people do talk they often deliver long, wordy pieces that are more like essays than dialogue. Camões does a bit better with the gods than with the humans. For example, the council of gods in canto 1, in which Jupiter gives a long speech that is favorable to the Portuguese, Bacchus speaks against them, and Venus for them. Both speeches, though, are summarized by Camões. Mars follows with an emotional speech for the Portuguese, but the effect of this speech is blunted by the lack of any real exchange among the characters. This is, however, closer to drama than many of the others because of the simple fact that there are two complete speeches full of emotion.The book has a few truly memorable parts. One is Venus’s seductive appeal to Jupiter in canto 2. Similarly memorable and disconcerting is Venus stopping da Gama’s ship by pushing it back with her breasts. It is more difficult to remember any truly memorable scene involving only humans.Camões does not seem to like narration and dialogue. If you subtract the historical and geographical parts, the references to the gods and the parts addressed to King Sebastian, and the essays on various “vices and virtues”, only about half the book remains as a story; even this is made less of a story by long speeches, other stories embedded within the book. Therefore, the book doesn’t contain much story, and what story there is leads to a lack of a climax. Da Gama, after being in Calicut for some time, discovers that the local Muslims are plotting his downfall and so leaves India quickly and quietly without having achieved any real agreement with the region’s ruler.At this point Camões faces a problem. The story is over without a climax, and nothing remains but the end of the voyage. Camões’s solution is Venus’s island paradise, which provides variety, color, and sex appeal to the story, so an intrusion of some fantasy into a realistic voyage is however very questionable. But, considered by itself, the best part of The Lusiads is buy far the historical description in cantos 2 and 3. Despite its long intro, its energy makes it highly entertaining.During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the pieces from Vergil and Homer type were more popular with the more educated, and when a knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology was an essential part of the literary language, The Lusiads was generally popular and admired throughout Europe. Compared to books by Homer and Vergil, The Lusiads is a very different read. I like the use of history along with the with the essay like dialogue. It’s a fantastic book, making me want to reread The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. It seems to be Christian book, with da Gama and his sailors calling upon God and Jesus for salvation, yet at the same time, it’s populated by a whole boat full of pagan gods and goddesses, who are both the cause of and salvation from the trials from which da Gama prays for divine intervention. The book does suffer from its compromise to historical fact. Da Gama is a less-than-compelling protagonist in this book, and much of the book reads like a history textbook it seems like. Perhaps, if I were more knowledgeable about Portuguese history, I would have found this more interesting, but even so, I doubt these sections could ever compare to the more fantastical moments involving the gods. It is the only book that I have ever read that encompasses multiple religions like this.

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