Great Shakespeare educator dies

27th May 2005 at 01:00
Rex Gibson, who transformed the teaching of Shakespeare in the UK during a career lasting more than 40 years, has died after a long illness.

Dr Gibson combined the academic and the practical, encouraging teachers to see Shakespeare's plays as working scripts rather than literary texts. He did this memorably in workshops, his mane of white hair flying, as he led teachers or children through activities which were exciting but also respected the language. He would get everyone on their feet, trying out words, fitting them to movement and emotion.

His ideas live on in his books, especially the Cambridge School Shakespeare series, which runs to 31 titles, including the influential Teaching Shakespeare. As well as editing the series, which was launched in 1991, he wrote 16 of the titles himself. Sales of the series have exceeded a million copies.

Born in Bristol in 1932, Rex Gibson did his first degree at the university there and, after national service, returned to do a certificate in education before teaching in Gloucestershire. He went on to complete a PhD in teacher education at London university in 1973 and eventually led the Shakespeare and Schools project run by the Cambridge university institute of education where his practical ideas developed.

Fiona Banks, head of learning at Shakespeare's Globe in London said: "He was the father of the active approach to teaching Shakespeare. We wouldn't be doing what we are doing without his influence. He understood the requirements of the curriculum and classroom and provided teachers with ideas which were easy to do and always worked. I remember him inspiring teachers with sheer energy and excitement about Shakespeare."

In 1994, Dr Gibson became the first Sam Wanamaker fellow at the Globe.

He was happily married for 40 years and lived in Cambridge. He was going to productions of Shakespeare and working on a new edition of the Cambridge School Shakespeare until a few months before he died.

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