The Trickster, Remixed: Sherlock Holmes as Master of Disguise

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This essay seeks to investigate the uses of disguise in the Holmes canon, and to offer reasons for the relative scarcity – and the incompetence ¬– of instances of disguise in the modernised adaptation Sherlock. Drawing on Alec Charles’s identification of Sherlock Holmes as an example of the ‘trickster’ archetype, this chapter considers the connection between the trickster and the anti-hero, and the ways in which both Holmes and Sherlock define their personal codes of behaviour to justify disguise and deception. Through analysis of Sherlock’s ‘The Empty Hearse’ and ‘His Last Vow’ – and the canonical stories on which they draw – I argue that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock’s inability or unwillingness to disguise himself is used as a key to his authenticity as a character, and as a way of maintaining the distinction between the anti-hero and the villains in the series. The aspects of disguise, slumming, and street life that the canon and the TV series choose to expand upon or downplay, I suggest, show us the limits of what could be represented in these two contrasting mediums and formats.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSherlock Holmes in Context
EditorsSam Naidu
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781137555953
ISBN (Print)1137555947, 9781137555946
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2017

Publication series

NameCrime Files
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • Sherlock Holmes
  • disguise
  • trickster
  • remix
  • anti-hero
  • slumming

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