Portrait of Edmund Kean as Sir Giles Overreach

Portrait of Edmund Kean as Sir Giles Overreach

The character of Sir Giles Overreach in Philip Massinger’s 'A New Way to Pay Old Debts' provided a bravura role for a great actor like Edmund Kean, who revelled in the variety it required. American critic Richard Henry Dana admired his restraint in the early scenes: ‘His manner at meeting Lovell and through the conversation with him, the way in which he turns his chair and leans upon it, were as easy and natural as they could have been in real life, had Sir Giles been actually existing, and engaged at that moment in conversation in Lovell’s room’. But the avaricious cruelty of the character, and his fits of impotent rage as the plot progresses, also fitted Kean’s talents like a glove. According to one account, on the first night the effect of his impersonation was such that the pit rose en masse and even the actors and actresses themselves were overcome by the terrific dramatic illusion.