Edmund Kean

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Kean, Edmund

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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
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.
Critics praised her convincing portrayals of comic and tragic roles ranging from Juliet to Richard III and frequently drew comparisons to the celebrated Edmund Kean. But not all colonial subjects were receptive to the instrumentalization of small children for imperial objectives.
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.
I take Keats's explicit alliance with Edmund Kean here not only as an unapologetic embrace of a "low" social position against which critics commonly see him straining, but as an identification with the new modes of cultural experience Kean embodied on the early nineteenth-century London stage.
The following two articles, by John Kandl and Janet Ruth Heller, explore respectively Keats' reformist, anti-Tory support of the Shakespearean actor, Edmund Kean; and Lamb and Hazlitt's use of imagery to counter "utilitarian ideology" and to "push their audience to re-examine assumptions and to re-evaluate their society" (158).
(7) John Genest claimed Garrick's emotions "were legible in every feature of that various face--his look, his voice, his attitude changed with every sentiment." (8) None took up "natural" timing more influentially than Edmund Kean, whose legacy survived long after performers had renounced Cibber's text, and long after offstage behavior had forgotten the eighteenth-century man of sentiment.
Were interested readers to consult standard stage histories of the play by Toby Lelyveld and James Bulman, they might conclude that she gives insufficient credit to Edmund Kean for being the first to break with the deeply ingrained stage tradition of the villainous Jew in his production of 1814.
Jacob Adler describes how Edmund Kean went to the theatre contemplating suicide and out of his despair created a majestic performance as Shylock.
The production of Richard III by the actor Edmund Kean was much celebrated in its time, and what is more it is possible that in delivering our line Kean adopted the rueful interpretation.
Using Scribe's style of the "Well-made Play," Archer begins his biography of Junius Brutus Booth at a pivotal moment in the elder Booth's career - the showdown with Edmund Kean at Old Drury - and then surgically recreates the life of early America's "Theatrical Prometheus." The main thread of the study rests on Booth's frustrations with never reaching what he considered the apex of any theatrical career - popular success in London.
Success stemmed from the production by Edmund Kean, the noted British actor, of Payne's Brutus; or, The Fall of Tarquin, which opened on Dec.
The Haverfordwest handler has also left in Edmund Kean but he is not guaranteed a run in a maximum 30-runner line-up.