Monday, December 07, 2009

Is House, MD Holmes? Hamlet?

The Corsair's old St. John's College roommate Sean Stickle responded to a random tweet comparing Gregory House of Fox TV's House MD to Shakespeare's Hamlet with: "I thought House MD was Sherlock Holmes with a medical license." Darn. Sean has a point, as he always did in our old college arguments about literature and all matters intellectual. Still, I could not -- and cannot wholly concede that there is no Shakespeare in "The House (incidentally, one of my favorite TV shows)."

The New York Times magazine's Lisa Sanders, who also happens to be the doctor behind House, wrote an interesting piece on Sherlock Holmes that, as luck would have it, could just as easily been speaking of Dr. Gregory House:

"(I)n 1887 ... Arthur Conan Doyle began one of the strangest and most productive partnerships in literature, with his novel 'A Study in Scarlet.' I first made the acquaintance of this odd couple in high school. Recently I found myself dipping again into my well-worn volumes of these remarkable stories, but this time I couldn’t help looking at Sherlock Holmes with the eyes of a doctor. What I saw was what any doctor would see: a patient. The question for me was, Could the strange behavior of Sherlock Holmes be diagnosed?

"He does have symptoms. He appears oblivious to the rhythms and courtesies of normal social intercourse — he doesn’t converse so much as lecture. His interests and knowledge are deep but narrow. He is strangely 'coldblooded,' and perhaps as a consequence, he is also alone in the world. He has no friends other than the extremely tolerant Watson; a brother, even stranger and more isolated than he, is his only family. Was Arthur Conan Doyle presenting some sort of genetically transmitted personality disorder or mental illness he’d observed, or was Sherlock Holmes merely an interesting character created from scratch?"

Definitely House. Point: Sean Stickle. I am still not willing to concede that there is no Shakespeare in the writing of this wonderful show about damaged genius and the mysteries of life.

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