Born in Lancashire, England, and educated at the Central School of Drama in London, he moved to Canada in 1954 and joined the Festival in 1962, playing Duncan in Macbeth and Pedant in The Taming of the Shrew. Equipped with a broad, high brow, hooded eyes and large ears, his forte was elderly men of wisdom, be they kings or servants. Other roles at Stratford included the King of France in All's Well That Ends Well in both 1982 and 1988; Old Adam in As You Like It in 1996 and 2000; Seigneur Anselm in The Miser in 1998; and John of Gaunt in Richard II in 1999. His final roles at Stratford were Vintner and Archbishop Scroop in the 2006 production of Henry IV, Part 1.
As an educator, Mr. Shaw was the founder of the George Brown Theatre School in Toronto, which offers one of the country's premier theatre training programs. He served as artistic director of the school for its first 10 years.
Mr. Shaw also acted at other companies across Canada, including the Shaw Festival, where he essayed a memorable Charles Condomine in a sold-out production of Coward's Blithe Spirit.
His screen work included "The Veteran and The Lady" with Wendy Hiller, "Chasing Rainbows," "Seeing Things," "Street Legal," "Canada Confidential," "A Gift to Last" and "Ray Bradbury Theatre."
"Joseph Shaw was a memorable character actor," said Richard Monette, a close friend and former artistic director at Stratford, in a statement. "I knew him since I was 20 years old and during that time he was a loyal friend. He had a wicked sense of humor, a generous heart and was loved by the acting company at Stratford. He will be truly missed." Mr. Shaw was married to actress Mary Savidge, who also appeared regularly at the Festival. Ms. Savidge predeceased him on Aug. 20, 1982. He is survived by his son, Timon.