George Cruikshank





Edmund Kean

Edmund Kean in the rold of Hamlet

Edmund Kean

Edmund Kean was a British actor born March 17, 1787 at Westminster in London and died in Richmond, Surrey 15 May 1833. He was regarded in his time as "the greatest actor in the world," and was one of the first international stars in the world, conducting successful tours of the United States and the Continent.

His life and career might have entitle him to at least a runner up position as the Most Interesting Man in the world. Born in humble circumstances as the illegitimate son of an “actress” (which in those days often supplemented their income through prostitution), he was sent to see as a cabin boy, but hated the sea so much that he used his innate talent as an actor to fake lameness and was discharged. Upon his return to England, Kean entered the world of acting and eventually found unparalleled success as a stage actor, interpreting many Shakespearean roles as well as roles in various contemporary plays.

His eccentricities were fodder for the tabloid newspapers of the day. He would ride his horse Shylock at breakneck speed and recklessly through the streets of London, play with a tame lion in his living room, consort with ne'er-do-wells and celebrities of the period, and drink and do drugs. His popularity suffered when he was found guilty of committing adultery with the wife of a city of London alderman and fined; his wife left him, People met his performances with jeers and rotten fruit. And yet still he was , and perhaps remains, the best actor of all time.

At his death, Kean is alleged to have uttered the following quip: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”.

Kean's storied life has been the subject of many movies and novels.