Edward Petherbridge was born in Bradford in 1936 and trained at Esme Church's Northern Theatre School.

He began his tenure as part of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company in the 1960s, walking on in Olivier's Othello and later creating the role of Guildenstern in TomStoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Edward has been a leading actor in the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre; was a founding member of the Actors' Company in 1972; and with Ian McKellen established the McKellen-Petherbridge Group at the RNT in 1985. He is a winner of the Olivier and London Theatre Critics' Awards, and has twice been nominated for a Tony Award. He has also been a recipient of the Sony Award for Best Actor in a Radio Drama.

His major roles on stage include Newman Noggs in Nicholas Nickleby; Charlie Marsden in Strange Interlude; Gaev in The Cherry Orchard; the Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi; Alceste in The Misanthrope; Frank Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor; Malvolio in Twelfth Night, King Cymbeline in Cymbeline; Dr Dorn in The Seagull; Sir Anthony Blunt in Single Spies; Krapp in Krapp's Last Tape; Donner in Tom Stoppard's Artist Descending a Staircase; and Tiresias in Sophocles' Antigone. On television Edward was a definitive Lord Peter Wimsey in the Dorothy L. Sayers Mysteries.

Other television appearances include Journey's End, Maigret, A Christmas Carol, The Brief, Midsomer Murders, Land Girls and Doctors. His film roles include Richard St Ives in Mike Newell's An Awfully Big Adventure and Aesculapius in Pope Joan, directed by Sonke Wortmann.