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Richard, late of Clement’s Inn, was admitted to the Inner Temple on 30 June 1578 (around the time that Shakespeare was perhaps struggling with Latin Grammar at Stratford’s free grammar school); he was called to the Bar in November 1590 by which time Shakespeare had established himself as an actor and share-holder in the undertaking at Blackfriars Theatre.
This was a time when an ever growing profession in an extremely status-conscious age attracted more people for its social life than its academic training. Most Englishmen of Shakespeare’s day regarded the Inns of Court as finishing schools for gentlemen: statistical returns show, for example, that of the 761 members of the four Inns present in May 1574 176 were lawyers compared with 585 ‘gentlemen’.
The Inns were rapidly becoming thriving centres of literary enterprise, noted for their interest in drama, both play-going and play-acting. They also sponsored professional plays: the gala performance of Twelfth Night before Elizabeth I in 1602 at the Middle Temple is only the best known of a number of occasions. Besides all this, of course, there were also the less reputable pleasures of London, the sort that Robert Shallow remembered in Henry IV.
Yet Richard GOTTS, amidst the varied social events of Inn life, seems to have continued on his way. Traditionally, studies began at an Inn of Chancery (such as Clement’s), then transferred to an Inn of Court (such as Inner Temple), which alone had the right to call men to the Bar. Ten years of study in all was the ideal of the royal judges, seven before call to the Bar and a further three before taking cases alone. Richard’s twelve years of formal training is unusually long, when we consider, for example, that Sir Edward COKE of Tittleshall ( Lord Chief Justice ) studied law for just seven years after coming down from Cambridge and was called at the Inner Temple at the age of 26.
Richard GOTTS evidently aspired towards becoming a professional lawyer or acquiring the legal training so advantageous in the management of a country estate. He died, however, very shortly after being called and no further information about him personally or about his legal career exists. On the other hand, it appears that his widow Ann remarried, firstly, a Thomas GIBSON Esq of Thorpe next Norwich ( Will pr 1616 ) and, secondly, on 4 December 1617 at West Dereham Sir Thomas DEREHAM. She died in 1625.