OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Researchers say they have discovered a lost work by Spanish playwright Lope de Vega with the help of artificial intelligence.
“Digital tools are powerful allies for the researcher of Spanish Golden Age theater. Without them, it would have been much more difficult – or even impossible – for ‘La Francesa Laura’ to be studied as a potential work by Lope de Vega,” begins a paper published on Tuesday that outlines the discovery.
La Francesa Laura was one of the 85,000 manuscripts stored in the National Library of Spain. Its author was anonymous, but evidence now suggests the comedy was written by one of Spain’s most influential writers.
Academics and librarians were clueless until the text was run through an AI-powered text recognition tool called Transkribus. The manuscript was one of 1,300 Golden Age plays to have been digitally transcribed in a matter of hours.
But the transcript still contained some errors. The academics engaged in the research, Alvaro Cuellar and German Vega, later ran it through the ETSO platform, which they developed and trained on Spanish Golden Age literature data.
ETSO, which suggests authorship based on the datasets, classified the comedy La Francesa Laura as a work by Lope de Vega. None of the other pieces of theater was attributed to the writer.
After that shocking signal, the academics used traditional analysis to confirm whether the AI was right. All the evidence suggested that Lope de Vega indeed wrote the play.
Cuellar and Vega estimate he wrote it around 1630, approximately five years before he died. The National Library of Spain purchased it from a duke in 1882.
In a press release, the National Library of Spain describes it as a “remarkable play, with a dramatic force to be expected from a mature Lope de Vega” and highlights the work’s defense of the strength of women.
Lope de Vega is considered Spain's second most important author, only after Miguel de Cervantes. Besides elevating Spanish theater, he is known for his prolific writing. Overall, he published around 3,000 sonnets, three novels and around 500 plays.