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FOR SOMEONE whose knowledge of literature was first thought “nil” by Doctor John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes quoted Shakespeare a goodly number of times. We started all this yesterday here at SimanaitisSays. Today we continue with midsummer night’s dreaming, Othello’s laments, and even a Twelfth Night deduction that suggests Holmes’ birthday.

… airy nothings… In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1, Theseus describes the wonders of fantasy: “The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen/Turns them into shapes and gives to airy nothing.”

Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing, by William Blake, c. 1786.

In Watson’s chronicling of “The Final Problem,” Holmes displays burst and bleeding knuckles: “ ‘It’s not an airy nothing, you see,’ said he, smiling. ‘On the contrary, it is solid enough for a man to break his hand over.’ ”

Thus begins Holmes’s ultimate encounter with the evil Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Fall and his subsequent two-year hiatus.

… Occupation’s Gone… In Shakespeare’s Othello, Act III, Scene 3, Othello thinks his wife Desdemona has cheated on him. He sees his military career in tatters and laments to Iago (who had engineered this falsity), “Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump./The spirit-stirring drum, th’ ear-piercing fife./… Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone.”

Othello’s lament, Act III Scene 3.

In “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,” Holmes shares a similar thought. Watson chronicles, “ ‘From the point of view of the criminal expert,’ said Mr. Sherlock Holmes, ‘London has become a singularly uninteresting city since the death of the late lamented Professor Moriarty…. The community is certainly the gainer, and no one the loser, save the poor out-of-work specialist, whose occupation has gone.”

Journey’s Ending, Lovers’ Meeting. In Twelfth Night, Act II Scene 3, Feste the fool entertains with a song: “That can sing both high and low/Trip no further, pretty sweeting./Journeys end in lovers meeting,/Every wise man’s son doth know.”

“Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage.” Image by Sidney Paget from The Strand Magazine, October 1903.

In “The Adventure of the Empty House,” capturing the notorious Colonel Sebastian Moran, Holmes says, “Ah, colonel, ‘journeys end in lovers’ meetings,’ as the old play says.”

Well, not precisely. But Holmes is consistent: He utters “journeys end in lovers’ meeting” again, this time in “The Adventure of the Red Circle” when he encounters old friend Tobias Gregson of Scotland Yard.

In fact, the dual Shakespearean Twelfth Night references have also encouraged another bit of deduction among Sherlockians: Holmes must have been born on January 6—Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night Merry-Making in Farmer Shakeshaft’s Barn, from Ainsworth’s Mervyn Clitheroe, by Phiz.

Some, including the Church of England, claim that Twelfth Night is actually January 5, based on Christmas traditionally starting at sunset on December 24. However, since the sun never really sets on the British Empire, I join Sherlockians in celebrating his birthday on January 6. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

One comment on “HOLMES AND THE BARD PART 2

  1. carmacarcounselor
    October 28, 2018

    Wonderful! Now I know my father shared his birthday with Holmes, to go with my daughter’s sharing hers with J.R.R. Tolkien.

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