Edmund Kean

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Kean, Edmund,

1787?–1833, English actor. Kean's acting expressed the ideal of the romantic temperament. A small man with a wild spirit and a gruff voice, he was lauded for his facial mobility; according to Coleridge he had the power to reveal Shakespeare by "flashes of lightning." With his energy and violent emotions, Kean brought about a radical change in the prevailing classical style of the period.

Kean served an apprenticeship with groups of provincial and strolling players and in 1814 appeared at Drury Lane as Shylock, a triumph that is a landmark in the history of the theater. He further increased his reputation with portrayals of Richard III, Iago, Othello, Macbeth, Barabbas, and Sir Giles Overreach. In the United States in 1820–21 Kean had many triumphs, but a broken engagement in Boston ruined his popularity there.

Kean's personal life was as stormy as his career. In 1822 a suit against him for adultery resulted in his separation from his wife and son and hastened the disintegration of his reputation. In 1825 he again visited the United States and in some measure retrieved his reputation. After his return to England in 1826 his health and dramatic powers declined.


See biographies by H. N. Hillebrand (1933) and M. W. Disher (1950).

His son, Charles John Kean, 1811?–1868, went on the stage against his father's wishes. At his father's last appearance in 1833 he played Iago to his father's Othello at Covent Garden. He often played opposite his wife, Ellen Tree Kean, 1808–80, a noted comedienne, whom he married in 1842.


See the letters of C. and E. Kean, ed. by J. M. D. Hardwick (1954).

References in periodicals archive ?
If he had not met with kind folk at Cowbridge, I fear that Edmund Kean and his poor little wife would have both died at the roadside, and Britain would have lost one of its greatest actors.
Edmund Kean, who was third in the EBF Final over hurdles behind Close Touch and Many Clouds in 2013, ran well for three-quarters of the race on his first start for Bowen in the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow.
Spectators received a well-illustrated program with Innu translations of Ariel's songs, paintings from Huron-Wendat history and the story of Edmund Kean, who inspired Lepage.
If Wordsworth's egotism represented, in both his life and work, a literary parallel to the masterful authority displayed on the Covent Garden stage by John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean embodied for Keats a refusal to seek cultural distinction by emulating that authority.
Walters' two chances are Tanerko Emery in the PS50,000 hurdle race, in which he was placed two years ago, and Edmund Kean, who ran in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow at Christmas, in the chase.
For various reasons I've omitted Sam Winner, Mendip Express, Rigadin De Beauchene, McMurrough, Alpha Victor, Edmund Kean and Nuts N Bolts.
Coral: 8 Green Flag, Sam Winner, 10 Mendip Express, Roalco De Farges, 14 Trustan Times, Godsmejudge, 16 Edmund Kean, Lie Forrit, Merry King, Nuts N Bolts, Yes Tom, 20 Alpha Victor, Hadrian's Approach, Lackamon, Midnight Appeal, Rigadin De Beauchene, Roberto Goldback, Storm Survivor, Tidal Bay, 25 bar.
Other leading contenders include Philip Hobbs' Roalco De Farges, Russell's Lie Forrit, David Pipe's Edmund Kean and Rigadin De Beauchene from Venetia Williams' yard.
Jeffrey Kahan's addition to the already substantial bibliography of Edmund Kean occupies the border between biography and cultural studies, taking stylistic and epistemological risks in the face of a subject allegedly 'better suited to the campus bar than the classroom'.
In a rare revival of Jean-Paul Sartre's 1954 play Kean he is playing the early 19th century Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean, who electrified his contemporaries - Coleridge said that to see him performing Shakespeare was like seeing it illuminated by flashes of lightning - but burned himself out at the age of 56.
It is in that last observation that we start to understand how nineteenth-century actor Edmund Kean affected no less than Byron, Coleridge and Keats.
In fact, a lot of the top actors of 20th and 21st century would not appear that much in pantobut before then top performers such Henry Irving, Edmund Kean and Charles Macklin would.