The Genius, The Madman, and The Poet

I should preface this with the information that it was a tiny story written for my favorite Professor for my Shakespeare class. We had to show understanding of a Shakespeare sonnet, I chose to use three (sonnets 18, 73, & 6.) It came from a random thought I had on whether it would be possible to have an entire conversation using a Shakespearean sonnet. I added Shakespeare (18), Sherlock (73), and The Doctor (6), for funsies.




The day is covered in grey low-hanging clouds. A tall, thin, odd-looking man with sharp cheekbones stares out at Baker Street. His violin cries against the gloom. John Watson is about to succumb to the pitfalls of marriage and he, Sherlock Holmes, could do nothing to stop him. He ceased his playing and set the instrument on the worn brown chair at his left.

“Foolish man,” he thought to himself. “What does he need with a wife?” It wasn’t as if he didn’t like Mary; she was a smart and capable woman, but to saddle himself for a lifetime seemed ridiculous to him.

He turned away from the window and began to stalk across the room when a whirring whooshing sound echoed on the street below. He ignored it as he did most things that did not concern him. And for now, he needed to find something nice to say about love in his best man’s speech for John’s wedding.

Speaking aloud, he considered, “All emotions, and in particular love, stand opposed to the pure, cold reason I hold above all things. A wedding is, in my considered opinion, nothing short of a celebration of all that is false and specious and irrational and sentimental in this ailing and morally compromised world. Today we honour the death-watch beetle that is the doom of our society and, in time – one feels certain – our entire species.[1]

Flopping down on the sofa, he wrapped his arms about his lean frame, and tucked his knees up. He reached for the nicotine patches he kept under the sofa and figured it was only a two patch problem. He went to his mind palace, deep wood and ornate, he searched the rooms for material.

“Sherlock,” came a shrill voice. “Have you put the doorbell in the refrigerator again?” Hearing no response, Mrs. Hudson came into the room and Sherlock turned to face her. “There’s a strange man at the door.”

The aforementioned man stormed into the room, long brown coat furling out behind him, hands tucked into his pockets, a grin of insanity plastered across his face.

“Well hello! I’m the Doctor and you, Sherlock Holmes, are coming with me.”

“Sherlock, what is going on?” Mrs. Hudson asked incredulous at the two madmen in the flat. One was bad enough, but two?

“I’ve got this Mrs. Hudson, you can go back to doing whatever it was you were involved with before The Doctor here interrupted.” Sherlock stood up suddenly and whisked his robe off revealing a white button-up with starched black pants. “So then, why in the world would I go off who knows where with a strange man in a very good coat? It is, by the way, a very good coat.”

“Oh because you’re a fan of adventure and I’m about to provide that for you.” Eyebrow quirked, he strode towards the door as if he simply expected Sherlock to follow.

Well it was a boring Monday morning and there were no cases on the website. So, he grabbed his jacket, whipped his coat over his shoulders, wound his scarf around his neck, and flipped up the collar of his trench coat. The Doctor was halfway down the stairs when Sherlock finally walked out the door. He caught up easily and followed him out the door to see a blue police box standing sentinel on the sidewalk in front of 221B.

Sherlock continued walking toward the street to hail a cab, but The Doctor took a key and opened the police box.

“Are you coming?” The Doctor disappeared into the box, but left the door cracked.

“Are you mad?” Sherlock asked fairly certain of the answer, but he had examined The Doctor and seen a man of incredible intelligence hiding behind a façade of silliness. Sherlock was intrigued, which didn’t happen often enough, so he stepped into the blue box and gazed around at the eclectic control room before him.

“Is there something you’d like to say?” The Doctor asked, eager as a schoolboy just before Christmas.

“It must be dimensionally transcendental or do those you bring with you usually just say ‘Bigger on the inside?’”

The Doctor’s face fell, but only for a moment. “Oh you are truly clever. A properly clever man. Oh I am ever so glad to finally meet you. So glad She brought me to pick you up and whisk you away on an adventure.”

“She?” Sherlock was puzzled until The Doctor gestured around at the control room. “Ahhh. I see, your machine here. You refer to her as she.”

“Oh yes!” The Doctor danced around the console pulling levers with his fingers and pressing buttons with his feet. “The TARDIS: Time and Relative…”

“Dimension in Space,” Sherlock finished for him. “You’ve a machine that travels through time and space. Oh this is going to be fun. Where are we off to?” Sherlock bounced on the soles of his feet and clasped his hands behind his back.

“Well, the TARDIS seemed to know that you were having some love troubles.”

Sherlock jeered at the idea. “Love is ridiculous and I have no time for such frivolity.”

“But your Watson does not feel the same.”

“Alas, no, he does not.”

“Well then, I have the perfect solution. If you’ll just…”

But before he could finish, Sherlock was jolted across the circular room and barreled into the railing.

“Uh…hold on.” At least he had the sense to look abashed at the puddle of Sherlock splayed across the floor. “Anywho, as I was saying. I have the perfect solution to your problem. We’ll take it to the expert.”

“An expert on love?” Sherlock scoffed.

“Right outside the door,” The Doctor nodded, enthusiastic.

Sherlock strode down the walkway to the door and plowed out into a muddy darkened street. Assaulted by scents he organized the overwhelming odors. “Urine, body odor, livestock, rotting…”

“Yes, yes, that is all true, but there’s also lovers walking through the lamplight; shopkeepers closing up and heading home to their families; workers gathering at the pub,” they turned a corner, “and The Globe Theatre.” He swept his arms wide indicating the crowd gathered outside the Theater.

“You brought me to,” Sherlock mentally considered the clues, “to Elizabethan England to watch a play. I’m not sure how exactly you expect to me to be swayed by costumed men prancing about on stage.”

The Doctor shook his head in frustration as they walked past the throng. “Goodness, you are an obstinate fellow aren’t you?”

“No Doctor, I simply prefer logic and reason to the messy absurdity of emotions. Love is simply a series of chemical reactions, nothing concrete or verifiable.”

“He will certainly have his work cut out with you.” He led Sherlock down an alley and stopped just outside an ordinary wooden door. The mumbled conversations of the people gathered within filtered into the night. “We’re here.”

“Where is here?”

“Inside this pub sits a man who, I hope, can persuade you of the beauty of love.”

Sherlock arched his eyebrow in response.

“Yes, well not everyone is a robot Sherlock. You will have to keep an open mind though so try not to be so…well so you.” He lifted the cast iron latch and walked into the low light of the barroom. A few eyes looked at the two men dressed in long trench coats and went back to their mead and ale. One man sat alone, scribbling by candlelight in the corner.

“Wil! My old friend, it’s good to see you again.”

Shakespeare looked up, his gaze absent until it focused on the man with the strangely spiky hair and wild mannerisms. “Doctor?” He stood quickly and grabbed The Doctor into a crushing bear hug. “It’s been too long. Please sit, sit. And I see you’ve brought another of your traveling companions, though not the beautiful lady that you had with you the last time you visited.”

“Wil Shakespeare meet Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock meet Wil Shakespeare.”

The two men shook hands, Sherlock showed only a flicker of the excitement that roared around inside. “What brings you here?”

“My friend Sherlock here needs a bit of love advice.”

Sherlock leaned back as ale was placed in front of him, arms crossed as if unwilling to allow even the possibility that he would even understand the silly concept of something so plebian as love.

“Ahhhhh love. A gift from the Gods.”

“A chemical defect.” Sherlock responded snarkily.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.[2]” Shakespeare began.

Sherlock was unimpressed. “That time of year thou may’st in me behold. When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang[3].”

“Then let not Winter’s ragged hand deface. In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d[4],” The Doctor countered.

Shakespeare continued, “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

Sherlock sipped from the mug in front of him. “Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.”

“Yes, but dear man, sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, and often is his gold complexion dimm’d.” Shakespeare focused directly on Sherlock as if he could bore the truth of love into the man’s soul.

“In me thou see’st the twilight of such day, as after sunset fadeth in the west.” Sherlock remained unswayed.

“Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place. with beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d,” The Doctor pleaded.

Sherlock was getting worked up. “Which by-and-by black night doth take away, Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.”

Shakespeare caught the vibe of intensity that exuded off of the two other men seated opposite him. “And every fair from fair sometime declines, by chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d.”

“That use is not forbidden usury, which happies those that pay the willing loan,” The Doctor explained further.

Sherlock stood and began pacing in the small and stifling space. “In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire that on the ashes of his youth doth lie, as the death-bed whereon it must expire consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.” He stopped in front of the hearth.

Shakespeare joined him there, pleading with him in verse. “But thy eternal summer shall not fade; Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st; Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade, when in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.”

“That’s for thyself to breed another thee, or ten times happier, be it ten for one; Ten times thyself were happier than thou art, if ten of thine ten times refigur’d thee.” The Doctor remained seated and unmoving, staring intently up at the two men who stood only feet from each other, both intense and stubborn in their opinions. “I thought this would be much easier,” he muttered under his breath.

Sherlock’s hands gestured fervently to The Doctor and Shakespeare. “This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong, to love that well which thou must leave ere long.” He finished his speech and flopped back down onto the three-legged stool, leaning heavily on the table.

“Then what could Death do, if thou shouldst depart, leaving thee living in posterity? Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair, to be Death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.” He reached out for Sherlock sensing the man’s turmoil.

Shakespeare joined them, sitting back down at the table. “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

The three fell silent considering the quick exchange that had gone on between them. Sipping, Sherlock fell into his own thoughts, knowing that The Doctor and Shakespeare were right, but believing that he himself would never change his opinion on love. But John Watson, his best friend, the best man he’d ever known deserved better than a broken bitter speech from a scientist and he felt now that he could accomplish that.

They finished their ale and bid ado to the man with the golden tongue. Shakespeare’s mood dipped at their leaving, but he lost himself again in his ink-stained fingertips. The Doctor and Sherlock walked in melancholy silence back to the TARDIS. He returned Sherlock to his rightful time, but before he could leave for good, The Doctor stopped him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help, I thought for sure if anyone could teach you about love, it would be Wil.”

“No Doctor, don’t concern yourself with my seeming inability to understand the finer points of love. You have done what you set out to do. I know better where to start with my best man speech and that is all that matters. For those it touches love is a grand and beautiful thing. It affects those who feel its influence, as John and Mary have, and they cannot help but be changed by it.” He held his hand out to the madmen with the blue box. The Doctor took it gladly. “Thank you, Doctor, you have done me a world of good. It has been a grand adventure.”

He turned brusquely, flipping his collar up once more and strode out into the grey of modern London. Somehow, the world had changed around him while he was gallivanting four hundred years in the past. Yes, it had affected him much more than he was willing to admit. He stepped into the foyer of 221B and began composing.

[1] Sherlock Season Three, Episode Two: The Sign of Three

[2] Shakespeare Sonnet Number 18; all of Shakespeare’s lines in this conversation are taken from this sonnet.

[3] Shakespeare Sonnet Number 73; all of Sherlock’s lines in this conversation are taken from this sonnet.

[4] Shakespeare Sonnet Number 6; all of The Doctor’s lines in this conversation are taken from this sonnet.


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