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John Barton was educated at Eton College and King's College, Cambridge and while at Cambridge directed and acted in many productions for the Marlowe Society and the ADC. In 1960, along with Sir Peter Hall, he co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company where Barton was an active director for over 40 years. He has directed over 50 productions on his own or as a collaborator with Hall and Trevor Nunn. Some landmark productions at RSC include 1969's Twelfth Night with Judi Dench as Viola, and the 1963/1964 sequence of Histories (with Peter Hall and Clifford Williams). In the RSC's 50th anniversary commemorations (2011) Barton's teaching is acknowledged as one of the lasting reasons for the company's success and he is regarded as one of the most influential directors of Shakespeare of his time. He is quoted in an article by Michael Billington as saying, "I... think the success or failure of the RSC depends on the quality of the actors. If I've learned anything in my time, it is that if you get the right combination of actors, a production will generally work... But one should always remember that no theatre company is immortal and Zeus could still chuck a thunderbolt at any moment." Barton possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of Shakespeare and is known to be able to identify one of his plays from a single line of text. A story is told of Barton getting so into his directorial work giving notes one night, that he fell into the orchestra pit, climbed out, and dusted himself off before resuming. A great deal of the success of RSC is attributed to Barton and his unrivalled wisdom of language, verse and character. In 1969. he married the former Anne Righter, who eventually became a Professor of English at Trinity College, Cambridge. Anne Barton died in November 2013.
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