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Who is Dr. Watson?

Dr. Watson, the quintessential sidekick in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, is a character of steadfast loyalty and medical expertise. His narrative voice brings Holmes's enigmatic world to life, offering readers a relatable human touch amidst thrilling detective escapades. How does Watson's perspective shape our experience of the great detective's adventures? Join us as we examine his pivotal role.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Dr. Watson is the confrere of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. John H. Watson, like Conan Doyle, was a medical doctor. Dr. Watson shared lodgings with Holmes on Baker Street, accompanied him on many of his cases, and recorded them, acting as Holmes’s biographer. Dr. Watson was married, twice apparently, but his domestic life, indeed, any of his life outside the scope of Holmes’s sitting room and adventures is not very important in this context.

Dr. Watson appears in over 93% of all the works Conan Doyle created that included Holmes, so the relationship between the two men is key in the elucidation of both story and character. Though not unintelligent, Dr. Watson is a bit of a romantic, and serves as a foil for Holmes’s scientific and objective approach. Given a hero who is, at times, a bit unheimlich, readers can connect with the warm and sincere Dr. Watson, and through him, with Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional crime solvers.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional crime solvers.

Dr. Watson is willing to accompany Holmes into danger, and even to risk doing a little breaking and entering or other morally questionable acts in the aim of achieving justice. His medical knowledge is sometimes put to use, and his observations, although often misdirected from Holmes’s perspective, nevertheless serve to call Holmes’s attention to key points that help him work towards a solution. In return, Holmes is fiercely loyal to Dr. Watson, although he rarely expresses it, and sometimes resorts to tricking Watson in order to create a scene in which the truth will be revealed.

Arthur Conan Doyle began writing about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the late 1800s.
Arthur Conan Doyle began writing about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the late 1800s.

Dr. Watson has been portrayed by a number of actors, as the Sherlock Holmes mysteries have a perennial popularity. Those who have played Watson include Nigel Bruce, with Basil Rathbone as Holmes, in the 1940s, Martyn Green, better known from his roles in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas, in 1953, Edward Hardwicke who played the role to Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the 1980s, as well as Robert Duvall, Dudley Moore, John Mills, Ben Kingsley, and Ian Hart.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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    • Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional crime solvers.
      By: Dmitriy Lesnyak
      Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are fictional crime solvers.
    • Arthur Conan Doyle began writing about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the late 1800s.
      Arthur Conan Doyle began writing about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the late 1800s.