no spoilers were used in the preparation of this post
When Ol' Johnny boy was losing it at the bookies because he is racked with guilt (and off his meds - ed), he waxed poetic about all his troubles saying. "When sorrows come, they come not single spies. But in battalions."
Now, I'm sure that Peter Barlow assumed that John was prattling on about the latest Spielberg war movie or a BBC documentary. But no, John was harking back to his teaching past, quoting Shakespeare as a way of summarizing his many woes.
The quote comes from Hamlet and is spoken by the unsavoury King Claudius who, like John, has got himself into a right pickle. mostly of his own making. Here's what Claudius says:
When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, her father slain:
Next, your son gone; and he most violent author
Of his own just remove: the people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly,
In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts:
Last, and as much containing as all these,
Her brother is in secret come from France;
Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father's death.