Lost 400-year-old work of Spanish playwright found in Madrid

MADRID (AFP) - A lost 400-year-old unpublished romantic comedy by the great Spanish Golden Age playwright Felix Lope de Vega has been discovered in Spain's national library, officials announced Wednesday.

A 17th century manuscript of the play, Mujeres y Criados (Women and Servants), was identified within the Spanish National Library's archives by Mr Alejandro Garcia Reidy, member of a Lope de Vega research group at the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, library and university officials said.

Never published before, the 56-page work can be seen online here http: bdh.bne.es/bnesearch/detalle/4265202 and is to be staged later this year by the Fundacion Siglo de Oro (Golden Age Foundation) for the first time since it was written in 1613-14.

The play, written by Mr Lope de Vega during the peak of his theatrical success, tells the story of two sisters in Madrid, Violante and Luciana and their secret lovers Claridan and Teodoro, one a waiter and the other a secretary to a certain Count Prospero.

Complications begin when two new suitors arrive on the scene; Count Prospero himself, who chases Luciana, and the wealthy Don Pedro, who courts Violante with her father's approval.

"This comedy reaches out to today's audience as well," said Mr Garcia Reidy, who is assistant professor at Syracuse University, New York.

"Some scenes are more proper of a vaudeville show, a theatrical genre whose mechanics and rhythm are still quite popular," he said in a statement issued by the Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.

"Many of the scenes have their complexity, which is very promising, coming from a theatre play from the Golden Age." Mr Lope de Vega included the play in a list of works in 1618 but it had been believed lost.

"This is a very important discovery," said Mr Alberto Blecua, director of the Barcelona university research group.

"Although attributing works to certain authors is always subject to possible controversies, the well-known prestige of the researcher and the validity of his arguments make me think that there will be unanimity among the scientific community," he added.

The Spanish National Library acquired the manuscript in 1886 when it bought the Library of Osuna.

"Several internal elements of the text and the relation the manuscript has with data in documents from that period confirm that the text was written by the 'Phoenix of Wits," Mr Garcia Reidy said.