Portuguese dramatist; born at Lisbon about 1470; called by the Portuguese their Plautus, their Shakespeare, and the father of their comedy. He numbered secret Jews among his friends, to one of whom, Affonso Lopez Capaio, a poet at Thomar, he addressed several short poems. When in Jan., 1531, Portugal, and especially the city of Santarem, was terrified by an earthquake, the monks seized the occasion to anathematize from the pulpit all those that harbored Jews or Maranos, the latter of whom were driven from their homes and obliged to seek refuge in the mountains. When Gil Vicente, then sixty years of age, saw the fury to which the populace had been incited, and its danger to the innocent victims, he summoned the fanatic monks to the chief church, and, reminding them earnestly of their true mission of love, persuaded them to induce the people to desist from further persecutions. He actually succeeded in restoring peace and quiet where the ministers of the Church had sown dragons' teeth; and he considered this one of the most valuable services that he had rendered to his king. He sent a detailed report of the occurrence to his pious monarch ("MS. Carta que Gil Vicente mandon de Santarem á El Rei D. Joāo III. sobre ó tremor de terra, que foi a 26. de Janeiro de 1531," in "Obras," iii. 385 et seq.).
- Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, pp. 181 et seq.;
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. section i., part 67, pp. 325 et seq.