The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.
The Custom of the Country, a comedy by John Fletcher (and, apparently, another but unknown writer), was founded in the main on Cervantes' romance of Persiles of Sigismunda (1616), an English translation of which appears in 1619. The play, when performed in 1628, was described as "old." It was printed in 1647, and revived at the Theatre Royal in 1667, when its second performance was witnessed by Pepys. "Knipp," he writes, "does the widow well; but of all the plays that ever I did see, the worst, having neither plot, language, nor anything on earth that is acceptable." Dryden wrote of it that "There is more indecency in The Custom of the Country than in all our plays together; yet this has been often acted on the stage in my remembrance." "The Custom which gives the name to this comedy--namely, that the lord or master should have the first night's lodging with every woman married to his tenant or bondman--is said by Bayle to have prevailed at one time in Italy, till it was properly suppressed by some Cardinal" (Genest). The leading male figures in the story are Arnoldo and Rutilio, two brothers, the former of whom is on the point of marrying Zenocia. To avoid the "custom of the country" they leave Italy, and enter upon a series of adventures which end happily in the union of Zenocia and her lover. Fletcher's play formed part of the foundation of Cibber's Love makes a Man and of Johnson's Country Lasses.
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