The Life and Career of Edmund Kean

  • The Birth of Edmund Kean

    There is speculation surrounding the precise date of Edmund Kean's birth. Evidence hints at this paritcular date. Most information about his early years is obscure. He was the child of Edmund Kean and Ann Carey. Ever present in his life was his father's brother, Moses, who was a performer and heavily involved with the theatre.
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    The Life of Edmund Kean

  • First Performance

    Kean appears as a goblin in Macbeth at the newly opened Drury Lane Theatre. Despite being an ensemble member, the yound Kean calls attention to himself and pulled focus during Macbeth's final visit to the witches.
  • Death of Moses Kean and Edmund's father

    Moses dies, causing the young Kean's father to fall into a deep depression and take his own life several months later. Kean remained involved in the Drury Lane theatre depsite the tragedy and became a child prodigy. Despite the popularity Kean gained with his talent for performance, his mother took him out of the theatre. His reputation only grew afterwards
  • First Job

    Kean, having run off to find work as an actor in provincial theatre circuits, honed his skills and began recieving recognition beyond his reputation as a child prodigy. In spring 1804, Kean was hired by a company led by Samuel Jerrold. He worked under Jerrold for one season and left when Jerrold refused to make him the leading tragedian. He spent the next years as a mostly unsuccessful provincial actor, moving from company to company.
  • Kean Starts to Reach his Potential

    Kean moves from London to Weymouth with his wife and 2 sons. He takes up work as a leading man in company led by one Richard Hughes. There he built up the repertry of characters that would ultimately make his career.
  • Shylock

    After severe struggle and financial hardship complicated by an afifnity for drinking and prositutes, Kean was able to get a position as a leading man at Drury Lane. He debuted as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and won some acclaim in the London theatrical scene. This marked the turning point in Kean's career
  • Richard III

    Kean followed up his successful portrayal of Shylock with an equally villainous role. His Richard was also incredibly well-recieved and helped to further launch his career. He was starting to become well-known for his unique, emotional interpretations of classic figures.
  • Hamlet

    Kean followed up his portrayals of Shylock and RIchard III with Hamlet. This characterization also added to Kean's reception by the London theatre scene. The three roles would often be played by him in a weekly routine. Following this performance, a major divide began about whether romantic or classicaly acting styles were to be used
  • Further Triumph at Drury Lane

    Kean began his second season at Drury Lane and further built his reputation and repertoir. Despite appearing in 10 new roles (at least for Drury Lane audiences), Kean was not as successful during this season. For example, his Macbeth recieved mixed reviews and most critics did not care for his Romeo, claiming he was better at being upset than in love.
  • Kean's Third Season

    Kean began a thrid season which was immediately of to a less successful start than his second. His repertoire of characters was losing its flair; audiences had tired of it.
  • Kean Gone Mad

    Kean was cast as Sir Giles Overreach in the revival of A New Way to Pay Old Debts. It was another villain role that made Kean a London sensation again. Critics were taken with Kean's portrayal of Overreach's evil and descent into complete madness.
  • Scandal

    Kean misses a performance of The Duke of Milan in which he was cast as Sforza. He was drunk in a tavern, still celebrating the previous night's performance of A New Way to Pay Old Debts, and attempts to hide the incident failed. Kean's reputation for debauchery had already been an issue in the past.
  • A Rival

    Junius Brutus Booth makes his debut in RIchard III. Immediately, critics and the public see his performance style as highly similiar to Kean. Some remark he is better. Kean was not pleased and thus began a bitter rivalry between the two
  • A Change at Drury Lane

    The committee running the Drury Lane theatre chose to resign. The establishment was to be placed under the management of a lessee manager. Kean began furiously competeing with other owuld-be managers. He was beaten by Robert William Elliston, a long time enemy during his career.
  • More Scandal

    Kean, stuck constantly struggling to maintain his status at Drury Lane, begins to see a married woman, Charlotte Cox. Kean struggled to keep his mistress quiet about the affair; his reputation was now in further danger.
  • American debut

    Kean began an American tour. He debuted as Richard III in New York. This marked the beginning of a very successful American tour. American theatregoers were anxious to see the legendary Edmund Kean perform, regardless of his less-than-perfect public image.
  • Failure and Foolishness in Boston

    Against the advice of theatre manager James Dickson, Kean chose to start performing in Boston very late in the theatrical season. He recievesdsmall crowds, insulting him to the point that he refused to perform several times. The public turned on Kean following this abyssmal run in Boston.
  • The Journey Home

    After a mixture of success and failure in the United States, Kean set sail for England. He was ready to return to Drury Lane, but was unaware of the shift in public taste from his tragedies and dramas to operas and melodramas.
  • Final Performance

    While playing Othello alongside his son, Charles (cast as Iago), Kean began to suffer complications largely due to his alcoholism. He collapsed into Charle's arms and was carried offstage during the 3rd act.
  • Death

    Edmund Kean, bedridden since collapsing during his final performance, passed away at 9:20am and was 45 years old.