Precisa ter instalado o JavaAplet
Precisa ter instalado o JavaAplet
Precisa ter instalado o JavaAplet
Precisa ter instalado o JavaAplet

History of Portuguese Literature Origins of Portuguese Literature The Portuguese Language Oral Literature Fiction Lyricism
Travel Literature Cantigas de amigo Historiography Doctrinal Prose


Gil Vicente

Belém Monstrance (attributed to Gil Vicente)

Picture inserted in Compilaçam de Toda las Obras de Gil Vicente..., Livro Primeyro, 
(Complete Works of Gil Vicente, Book 1) MDLXXV.

He was the most important Portuguese playwright and yet also the royal goldsmith, the master of the scales at the Mint and the author of the famous Belém Monstrance. In 1502, he performed Auto da Visitação (Monólogo do Vaqueiro) before the queen just as she was about to give birth, and this marked the beginning of a fertile career as a regular and brilliant writer of comedies. His work represents the coming together of the mediaeval inheritance (especially in the different genres and poetic rhythms that he favoured - systematically using the popular metre in both morality plays and farces) and the Renaissance spirit, which was a critical exercise in its denunciation of both institutional irregularities and society’s vices.

Amongst his innumerable works are: Auto da Índia, 1509, a farce criticising the way in which, after systematically setting sail with great euphoria for the Far East in search of riches, the Portuguese were necessarily forced to abandon their nation and family situations; the series of morality plays known as the Autos das Barcas (Barca do Inferno, 1517; Barca do Purgatório, 1518; Barca da Glória, 1519), which were an allegory on human vices; Auto da Alma, 1518, a sacramental morality play about the transitoriness of man’s earthly life and the conflicts between good and evil; Quem Tem Farelos?, 1515, Mofina Mendes, 1515, and Inês Pereira, 1523, which provided popular pictures of symbolic or everyday moral intensity, in irresistibly comic plots that were full of biting satire.

Gil Vicente created a rich gallery of characters and showed a great range of multiple expression. His writing ranged from the poetic portrayal of the most banal and common everyday events to a refined sense of religiousness and to the abstract or ideological contents that he defended or satirised.


The Ploughman’s Speech:

Whosoever must live by the plough
is always dead.
We are the life of people
and the death of our lives;
to patient tyrants,
who tooth and nail
have eaten away at our souls.
What is the point of idle chatter?
Even should he wish to be a sinner
the ploughman;
has neither time nor place
not even to wipe away
the beads of his sweat.

Auto da Barca do Purgatório


© Instituto Camões, 2001