The exact date of birth for Boscán is unclear, but there is a consensus that he was born anywhere between 1487 and 1492. Boscán was born in Barcelona and was one of three children. His father, Joan Valentí Boscà, was a public official, and his mother was named Violant Almogàver. Sadly, Boscán's father died in 1492, so he lived his life without any paternal guidance. Around 1507, Boscán left to live in the court of Fernando and Isabel, where he was a student of Lucio Marineo Siculo from Vizzini,Italy, who taught him the skill of translating Italian love poetry, Latin, and Greek lyrics into Spanish. Marineo's teachings evidence the close cultural interactions that existed between Spain and Italy and helped to develop the talent of Boscán.
By 1522, Juan Boscán was working as a tutor to Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba. In this same year, he participated with Garcilaso de la Vega in giving naval assistance to the Isle of Rhodes during a Turkish invasion. Interestingly, Boscán fought against the Turks again in 1532 with Alvarez de Toledo and Charles I in Vienna. During this period, Boscán had made serious progress in his mastery of verse in the Italian style.
Boscán is most famous for the incorporation of hendecasyllable verses into Spanish. Although he was preceded by Iñigo López de Mendoza (also known as Marqués de Santillana), who wrote 42 sonnets in the Italian style, Boscán was one of the first people to use the present-day structures of the sonnet in Castilian. His originality and open-minded nature make him an innovator, and his use of hendecasyllabic verse gave his poetry a distinctly creative flare that allowed him to emphasize the emotions and significance of each poem.
In the 1520s he came under the influence of Andrea Navagiero, the Venetian ambassador to Spain. It is because of Navagiero's persuasion that Boscán abandoned the traditional eight-syllable verses of Spanish poetry. Boscán was also influence by another Italian ambassador (a friend of Navagiero) named Count Baldassare Castiglione. Boscán was urged by Castiglione and Garcilaso to translate the ambassador's "Il Cortegiano" into Spanish, which was published on April 2, 1534 to great success.
With Boscán's fame came great controversy, because he constantly had to combat with those who preferred the old style of poetry over the new. In 1539, he married Ana Girón de Rebolledo of Valencia and fathered three daughters. Boscán died on September 21, 1542 after becoming ill in Perpignan, while he was preparing some of his poetry for publication.
Amor es todo cuanto aquí se trata; Love is everything treated here; es la sazón del tiempo enamorada; it is love's season; todo muere d'amor o d'amor mata; all dies of love or kills for love; sin amor no veréyes ni una pisada; without love you'll see hardly a footstep; d'amores se negocia y se barata; with love, you trade and barter; toda la tierra en esto es ocupada; the entire world is thus occupied; si veys bullir d'un árbol una hoja, if a tree's leaf buds diréys que amor aquello se os antoja you will say that love tickles your desire.
It would be difficult to refrain from mentioning Boscán's close friend, Garcilaso de la Vega. Together, the men are thought to have inaugurated the Spanish Renaissance. The men met at the Spanish court and remained close friends.
Boscán's poems were actually published after his death by his widow around 1543 (Garcilaso died in 1536 and Boscán was given the task of editing some of his works before his own death on September 21, 1542). While the collection was supposed to focus mainly on his poetry, Boscán was soon overshadowed by his friend Garcilaso. In contrast to Garcilaso, who explored several genres and themes in the new Italian style, Boscán wrote mostly about love. He has been compared to Fray Luis de León, a poet and professor of the 16th century, who also enjoyed the process of translating and writing poetry.