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|Sherlock Holmes character|
|First appearance||"A Scandal in Bohemia"|
|Created by||Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Sherlock Holmes character|
|First appearance||"A Scandal in Bohemia"|
|Created by||Sir Arthur Conan Doyle|
Irene Adler is a character in the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She was first featured in the short story "A Scandal in Bohemia", published in July 1891. She is one of the most notable female characters in the Sherlock Holmes series, despite appearing in only one story, and is frequently used as a romantic interest for Holmes in derivative works.
According to "A Scandal in Bohemia," Adler was born in New Jersey in 1858. She followed a career in opera as a contralto, performing in La Scala, Milan, Italy, and a term as prima donna in the Imperial Opera of Warsaw, Poland, indicating that she was an extraordinary singer (in reality, there was no Imperial Opera in Warsaw). It was there that she became the lover of Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein and King of Bohemia, who was staying in Warsaw for a period. The King describes her as "a well-known adventuress" (a term widely used at the time in ambiguous association with "courtesan") and also says that she had "the face of the most beautiful of women and the mind of the most resolute of men". The king eventually returned to his court in Prague. Adler, then in her late twenties, retired and moved to London.
On 20 March 1888 the king made an incognito visit to Holmes in London. He asked the famous detective to secure a photograph from Adler showing the king with her. The 30-year-old King explained to Holmes that he intended to marry Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of the King of Scandinavia; the marriage would be threatened if his prior relationship with Adler should come to light.
Using his considerable skill for disguise, Holmes traced her movements and learned much of her private life, notably that she is about to be married. He then set up a faked incident to cause a diversion that would let him discover where the picture was hidden. Adler detected Holmes through his disguise, but, before this, she treated him, as the supposed victim of a crime outside her home, with spontaneous care and solicitude.
When he came back to snatch the photo, he found Adler gone, along with her new husband and the goods, which had been replaced with a letter to Holmes, explaining how she had outwitted him, but also that she was happy with her new husband, who had more honourable feeling than her former lover. She added that she would not compromise the king, provided he did not try anything against her in the future.
Adler's career as a theatrical performer who becomes the lover of a powerful aristocrat had several precedents. The most obvious source is Lola Montez, a dancer who became the lover of Ludwig I of Bavaria and influenced national politics. Montez is identified as a model for Adler by several writers.
Closer to home is the singer Lillie Langtry, the lover of Edward, the Prince of Wales. As Julian Wolff points out, it was well known that Langtry was born in Jersey (she was called the "Jersey Lily") and Adler is born in New Jersey. Langtry had later had several other aristocratic lovers and her relationships had been speculated upon in the public press in the years before Doyle's story was published.
Along with the singer Ludmilla Hubel, alleged lover of Archduke John Salvator of Austria, these were suggested as Doyle's inspiration for Adler in his lifetime.
Irene Adler is also mentioned in the following stories:
In "The Five Orange Pips", Holmes mentions that he has been beaten four times, thrice by a man and once by a woman. Since "The Five Orange Pips" is set in September 1887, before "A Scandal in Bohemia", which is set in March 1888, Holmes could not be referring to the specific appearance of Irene Adler during "A Scandal in Bohemia" if the chronology is correct. Doyle had made clear chronological mistakes in other Holmes stories, and no other woman to be held in the same regard by Holmes or to have beaten Holmes is ever mentioned. Also, in "A Case of Identity", Watson mentions that Adler is the only person he has ever known to have beaten Holmes.
Adler earns Holmes's unbounded admiration. When the King of Bohemia says, "Would she not have made an admirable queen? Is it not a pity she was not on my level?" Holmes replies scathingly that Miss Adler is indeed on a much different level from the King (by which he means higher — an implication lost on the King).
The beginning of "A Scandal in Bohemia" describes the high regard in which Holmes held Adler:
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer — excellent for drawing the veil from men's motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his. And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
This "memory" is kept alive by a photograph of Irene Adler, which had been left for the King when she and her new husband took flight with the condemning photograph of her and the King. Holmes had asked for and received this photo as his payment for his part in the case.
In his fictional biographies of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, William S. Baring-Gould puts forth an argument that Adler and Holmes reconnected after the latter's supposed death at Reichenbach Falls. They performed on stage together incognito, and became lovers. According to Baring-Gould, Holmes and Adler's union produced one son, Nero Wolfe, who would follow in his father's footsteps as a detective.
Irene Adler appears as an opera singer in The Canary Trainer, where she encounters Holmes during his three-year 'death' while he is working as a violinist in the Paris Opera House, and asks him to help her protect her friend and unofficial protege, Christine Daaé, from the 'Opera Ghost'.
A series of mystery novels written by Carole Nelson Douglas features Irene Adler as the protagonist and sleuth, chronicling her life after her famous encounter with Sherlock Holmes and which feature Holmes as a supporting character. The series includes Godfrey Norton as Irene's supportive barrister husband; Penelope "Nell" Huxleigh, a vicar's daughter and former governess who is Irene's best friend and biographer; and Nell's love interest Quentin Stanhope as supporting characters as well. Historical characters such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Alva Vanderbilt and Consuelo Vanderbilt, and journalist Nellie Bly, among others, also make appearances. In the books, Douglas strongly implies that Irene's birth mother was Lola Montez and her father possibly Ludwig I of Bavaria. Douglas provides Irene with a back story as a pint-size child vaudeville performer who was trained as an opera singer before going to work as a Pinkerton detective.
In the 2009 novel The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King, it is stated that Irene Adler, who is deceased when the book begins, once had an affair with main character Sherlock Holmes and gave birth to a son, Damian Adler, an artist now known as The Addler.
In the 1946 film Dressed to Kill, Adler is mentioned early in the film when Holmes and Watson discuss the events of "A Scandal in Bohemia".
In the 1976 film Sherlock Holmes in New York, Adler (Charlotte Rampling) helps Holmes and Watson to solve a bank robbery organised by Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty, after he takes her son hostage to prevent Holmes from investigating the case (Holmes and Watson later rescue the boy).
She is portrayed by Rachel McAdams in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes. In that film, she is a skilled professional thief, as well as a divorcée. It is known that she knew Holmes prior the events of the film that could have been a story based on "A Scandal" as Sherlock has in his possession a photograph of her. She and Holmes are depicted as having a deep and mutual infatuation with each other, while at the same time, she is employed by his future nemesis Professor Moriarty.
McAdams reprised the role in the 2011 sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in which Moriarty kills her with a poison that imitates the symptoms of tuberculosis, after realizing that she may still maintain her feelings towards Holmes. Holmes receives a handkerchief (with the initials I.A.) on which Adler's blood is stained; this is given to him by Moriarty. While heading to France, Watson discovers the handkerchief and Holmes throws it overboard in grief. Despite this it is not confirmed that she is dead.
Irene Adler was portrayed by Inga Swenson in the Broadway musical, Baker Street which also starred Fritz Weaver as Sherlock Holmes. According to the liner notes of the original cast album, the story makes extensive use of the story "Scandal in Bohemia." The play opened at the Broadway Theatre, New York City, on February 16, 1965 and ran for 313 performances. The show's book was by Jerome Coopersmith and the music and lyrics were by Marian Grudeff and Raymond Jessel; the production was directed by Harold Prince.
In the 1984 made-for-TV film The Masks of Death, a widowed Irene Adler, played by Anne Baxter, is a guest at Graf Udo Von Felseck (Anton Diffring)'s country house where Holmes (Peter Cushing) and Watson (John Mills) are investigating the supposed disappearance of a visiting prince. Although Holmes initially considers her a suspect, she proves her innocence and becomes an ally.
In "The 10 Li'l Grifters Job," the season 4 episode 2 of Leverage, the character Sophie portrays Irene Adler at the Murder Mystery Masquerade.
In 2007's BBC Television production Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, Irene Adler (portrayed by Anna Chancellor) is the main villain of the piece and portrayed as one of Sherlock Holmes' arch enemies instead of a potential love interest.
In "A Scandal in Belgravia", the first episode of the 2012 second series of the BBC Sherlock, Irene was portrayed by Lara Pulver opposite Benedict Cumberbatch. A dominatrix who serves high-end clients, she is initially sought to recover incriminating photos she possesses of a liaison between her and a female member of the Royal Family. Unlike Doyle's original tale, in which she is American, in this version she is British.
Irene is mentioned, but not seen, in the CBS drama Elementary. She is pronounced already deceased in the seventh episode of the series.
|This section may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples. (April 2012)|