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Kean, ou Désordre et génie

Kean, or Disorder and Genius

drame/play, pub:1836, action:1820

    Kean, ou Désordre et génie translated by Frank J. Morlock

Oeuvres/Related Works
    Dumas père, Alexandre: Kean - Sartre's version of Kean available from amazon.com
    Morlock, Frank J.: Kean - available to read online!
    Dumas père, Alexandre: The Great Lover and Other Plays - Available from amazon.com
    Williams, Henry Llewellyn, Jr.: The Regal Box - New York, London, Street & Smith, 1902 (LOC# 03000173) (novelization of Kean)

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    Edmund Kean

From Reviews (ADR) by Arthur D. Rypinski:
     A drama in five acts, written in 1836 (at the height of Dumas' popularity as a playwright), and set in London in about 1820. For his subject, Dumas takes the character of the greatest British Shakespearian actor of his day, Edmund Kean (1787-1833). Born in poverty and obscurity, Kean swiftly became Britain's most famous (and best remunerated) actor by sheer force of ability, gaining the favor of London society. Kean's private life was a chaotic stew of debt, violence, intoxication, and other people's wives. He collapsed on stage in 1833 (playing Othello) and died broke.
     Kean's humble origin, genius, and sudden popular acclaim mirrored Dumas' experience in France, and Dumas took as his particular topic the relationship between the aristocracy of talent and the aristocracy of birth, a topic he also explored throught the character of Benvenuto Cellini in Ascanio.
     In the play, Kean is embroiled in an unhappy love affair with Countess Elena Koefeld, wife of the British ambassador. Waking from a drunken stupor, Kean meets a star-struck underage heiress, Anna Damby, who has just fled from an arranged marriage with a powerful politician, Lord Melville, leaving his Lordship standing at the altar.
     The meeting comes to the attention of Lord Melville, who, knowing of Kean's reputation as a womanizer, plans to abduct Miss Damby and blame the episode on Kean. Meanwhile, Kean comes to believe that his Countess is being courted by his royal patron, the Prince of Wales. In a series of tightly plotted scenes, Kean unmasks Lord Melville in the act of trying to kidnap Anna, challenges him to duel, only to have Melville refuse on the grounds that he is a peer of the realm while Kean is "a buffoon and a clown."
     The next day, preparing for performance of "Romeo and Juliet," Kean receives the Countess in his dressing room, and begs her not to see the Prince of Wales. Immediately, the Prince knocks on the door, the Countess is quickly bundled out a side exit, and Kean then begs the Prince not to seduce the countess, because he could not uphold his honor against a member of the royalty. The Prince puts him off, and Kean is distraught.
     The play begins, and, in the audience, Kean spies the Countess sitting with the Prince of Wales as well as Lord Melville. Abandoning the play altogether, Kean delivers a fiery denunciation of Lord Meville as a kidnapper and of the Prince of Wales as a seducer. Kean collapses onstage in a fit of madness.
     In the fifth act, Dumas masterfully pulls all the strings together and delivers a happy ending, with Kean and Anna Damby departing for a year's tour in America, and the Count and Countess returning to Denmark.

From A Bibliography of Alexandre Dumas père by Frank Wild Reed:
     A prose comedy in five acts.
     Quérard says in collaboration with Théaulon and Frédéric de Courcy, but Dumas fils mentions only the former, in a letter written to M. Charles Glinel. Dumas fils possessed the original MS. wholly in his father's hand, though he states that Théaulon had collaborated in the first draft.
     This play is a very clever piece of character development, well described by its second title. Frédérick Lemaitre, who played the title role, made of it one of his great successes, and Dumas, in constructing the part of the great actor, showed no little genius and perception. Lemaitre himself praises it highly, as do many other French critics, and they are right ; that it has not made as much appeal to English readers is however not surprising, for the main it is essentially a French play, and Kean is a French character, rather than an English one.
     It has generally been considered, and probably quite justly, that Dumas put even more than usual of himself into his Kean, consciously or unconsciously : the Dumas so prodigal of all things where others were concerned. If this is so, the piece will always retain a special interest for those who are keenly attracted to Dumas the man and to his career. By a letter of Dumas fils, recently offered for sale, it seems that Dumas père wrote a new fifth act for a reproduction of this play at the Odéon during his later years.
     First performed at the Theatre des Variétés on the 31st of August, 1836.
     It was later re-staged at the Ambigu Théâtre on the 20th of July, 1840, and again at the Porte Saint Martin, and at the Odéon in February, 1868.
     Original edition : Paris, Barba, 1836, 8vo., pp. 270. It contains a "hommage" to Madame la Duchesse d'Abrantès. The grey printed cover reproduces the title-page.
     Reprinted in "La France Dramatique"; Paris, Barba, 1836, large 8vo. of two columns.
     It formed one of the plays in Vol. VI. of the collected edition issued by Charpentier.
     It may now be read in Vol. IV. of the 15 Vol. series, and in Vol. V. of that in 25 Vols. as published by Calmann-Lévy.

         Parody :—
     "Kinne, ou Que de génie en désordre," a variety in ninety-nine couplets. Paris, 1836, 8vo.

         References :—
     Parigot: "Alexandre Dumas," pp. 81 to 84.
     Parigot: "Le Drame d'Alexandre Dumas," pp. 363-65.
     Lemaitre (Frédérick): "Souvenirs," pp. 217-21.
     Gautier: "Art Dramatique," Série II., pp. 249-50.
     Glinel: "Théâtre Inconnu," in "Revue Biblio-Iconographique," year 1898, page 513.
     Glinel: "Alexandre Dumas et Son Œuvre," page 341.
     Courmeaux: "Alexandre Dumas," page 27.
     Quérard: "Supercheries Littéraires Dévoilées," Vol. I., Column 1068.
     Parran: "Bibliographie d'Alexandre Dumas," page 26.
     Blaze de Bury: "Alexandre Dumas," pp. 121-22.
     Thackeray: "The Paris Sketch Book."

         English Translations :—
     "Edmund Kean; or, the Genius and the Libertine," a play in five acts, pp. 116; London, Vickers, 1847.
     "The Royal Box," translated by H. L. Williams (an adaptation, much altered and added to as compared with its original, and rendered in the form of a novel), pp. 266; London, Shurmer Sibthorpe, 1902.

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