Schools questions for Sherlock Holmes

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Schools questions for Sherlock Holmes

Characters in the stories

(A) Work in pairs. Pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Introduce yourselves using these phrases as a starting point:

Sherlock : “Good morning Watson. We have much to do. Let us go to Waterloo Station immediately”
Watson : “Yes Holmes. By the way, have you read my latest story of our adventures?”
(B) What words would best describe the characters :

Sherlock Holmes



Dr Watson


Doctor of medicine
Ex-Army man

King of Bohemia



Irene Adler



Helen Stoner



Professor Moriarty



(C) Did the actors succeed in playing their roles? How?

Were the characters in the play ‘true’ to the characters in the books?

Comprehension questions

1. Introduction
Who is Doctor Watson?
What period in history does he come from?
2. Holmes meets Watson
Who is Mrs Hudson?
Why does Dr Watson meet Sherlock Holmes?
What unusual habits does Sherlock Holmes have?
What is Sherlock Holmes’ job?
Why does Dr Watson get so angry when Sherlock Holmes examines his watch?
3. The Speckled Band
Why has Helen come to see Sherlock Holmes?
What happened to Julia – and why?
Why does Dr Roylott want to hurt Helen?
At Stoke Moran, Sherlock Holmes finds five clues. What are they ?
Clue 1

Clue 2

Clue 3

Clue 4

Clue 5
How do the clues help Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery?
At the end of the story, what did the “speckled band” turn out to be? What else might it have been?
4. Holmes’ Adventures
Why does Sherlock Holmes believe that he needs to take drugs? (Is he right?)
Why does he want to forget that the Earth travels around the sun?

5. A Scandal in Bohemia

Why does the King of Bohemia not marry Irene Adler?

What is the King afraid that Irene will do with the photograph? Why?
What does Sherlock Holmes think about the King of Bohemia? Does he like him? If not, why?
What two sorts of people does Sherlock Holmes disguise himself as and why?
What is Sherlock Holmes’ plan to get the photograph? Where does the plan succeed? Where does it fail?
Why does Irene change her mind about sending the photograph to the King’s fiancee?
What fee does Sherlock Holmes ask from the King of Bohemia?
6. Holmes’ Adventures
Why is Neville St Clair pretending to be disabled?
7. The Final Problem
Why does Holmes not summon the police when he sees Moriarty?
Who is the Swiss man who calls Watson back to the hotel?
8. Epilogue
How did Holmes escape from the waterfall?
Why did he allow Watson to be tricked into leaving him?

Writing exercises

A Study in Scarlet

Write a newspaper advert – Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, is looking for a flatmate – ideally one who will share his adventures. List the qualities which the successful applicant will have.

The Speckled Band

Imagine that Doctor Roylott is a Bond villain. Write a speech in which he explains how he plans to murder his stepdaughter, Helen. He could also threaten Holmes and Watson, and boast about how he killed Julia.

Write an entry in Helen Stone’s diary as if you are she. Describe her hopes and fears. Write about Helen’s delight at her engagement, but also her fear that she will suffer the same fate as her sister. Describe how Helen hears the low whistle, and how it makes her feel.

A Scandal in Bohemia

Write a dramatic scene between Irene Adler and the King of Bohemia in which he tells her that he plans to marry the Princess of Scandinavia.

You are a modern-day tabloid journalist. You have been sent some pictures, which confirm that the King of Bohemia has been having an affair with an actress. Write the scandalous story – be sure to make it as exciting as you can.
Write a letter from Sherlock Holmes to Irene Adler, congratulating her on her marriage.

Ideas for discussion (advanced students)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had great ambitions to be remembered as a “serious” writer, for such works as his historical novels, Micah Clarke and The White Company. He looked down on his own Sherlock Holmes stories, which were written purely in order to entertain the public and to make money. However, in studying these stories, we find Doyle tackling many issues of his time - sexuality, drug abuse, the afterlife, feminism, colonialism, scientists playing God – which are still relevant today. Here are just a few ideas for deeper discussion based on our play:

1) In The Speckled Band, marriage almost proves fatal to Julia and her sister Helen, as getting engaged causes them to be repeatedly attacked by a snake. The snake enters through a badly placed ventilator, and down a bell-pull, which doesn’t work. Helen manages to escape by leaving the deadly room, which adjoins the den of the snake. Sherlock Holmes defeats the snake with a stick, and it turns its aggression upon its master.
Discuss the imagery and the subtext – what might we conclude about Conan Doyle’s attitude to sexuality from this story?
2) In A Scandal In Bohemia, Irene Adler is described as an “adventuress”. Is this a good thing? What did it mean in the 1880s?
What ways were there for women to make their own living at the time?
What do we make of Irene’s character – and does it change, during the story?
Is she a good role model for modern women?
How are the characters of Irene Adler (A Scandal in Bohemia) and Helen Stoner (The Speckled Band) different?
3) In The Adventure of the Creeping Man, Professor Presbury’s attempts to find a “miracle cure” for ageing cause him to become less of a human being and more of a monkey. Sherlock Homes says that “When one tries to rise above Nature one is liable to fall below it.”
What does he mean?
What do you think he would make of modern attempts to “rise above Nature” such as cryogenics, cloning and farmed organs?
Do you agree with him?

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