John Barton, Director and Co-Founder the Royal Shakespeare Company, Dies at Age Eighty-Nine

Written by Nicole Cappabianca

John Barton, director and co-founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), died at age eighty-nine, according to MobyLives. Barton is said to have died at a care home in west London on January 18th.

Barton founded the RSC with Peter Hall in 1960. Barton’s wife, Anne, passed away in 2013 at the age of 80. He is survived by his sister Jennifer.

Barton is remembered as a visionary who changed the way Shakespeare was interpreted and performed. He approached the text in new ways, even writing his own scenes to insert into the original text of well known plays.

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran wrote in a eulogy on the RSC website that “perhaps John’s greatest influence on the company, and hence to the profession, was his passion for the verse, and his ability to uncover the clues that Shakespeare wrote into the text to enable actors to deliver it with freshness and vivid clarity.”

Barton directed hundreds of plays over his career, but some of his most notable productions include The War of the Roses in 1963 and Twelfth Night in 1969 where Dame Judi Dench played Viola.

Barton left his legacy with his nine-part Shakespeare series, recorded in 1982 and called Playing Shakespeare. The series was recorded by London Weekend Television and boasts a star-studded cast with names such as Ian McKellen, Ben Kingsley, and Lisa Harrow. Barton also released a transcript of the series as a book that is still widely read and used as an educational tool for actors.

Barton’s favorite play, Troilus and Cressida, is set to go up later this year by the Royal Production Company. According to Doran, “John’s eyes lit up when I told him that I would be directing his favourite play this year, and he shared some of his passion for the play with me. I regret that he won’t be around to tell me what I got wrong.”

The production will be dedicated to Barton and his memory, and will premiere in the fall.

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