Yorick's skull sits between the King and Queen's thrones
in Kronborg's Great Ballroom
Read more about the castle's history here:
Denmark's Kronborg Slot: the king and queen's apartments, ballroom, and chapel
Kronborg Slot, which I toured with @hanedane, is the real-life setting of Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Kronborg often hosts performances of Hamlet on the castle grounds; the first production here was in 1816 when amateurs performed the play at the garrison. Another production took place in 1916, and the play has been performed regularly at Kronborg since 1937.
Actors in Renaissance garb also gather once or twice an hour in the courtyard to deliver short comedic performances like the one below that I captured on my phone on our visit to Kronborg:
Kronborg is located in the city of Helsingør, a Danish name that Shakespeare anglicized to Elsinore. And that wasn't the only Danish name to change its spelling under Shakespeare's pen. When we were visiting the manor house at Broholm (on the island of Fyn), I noticed a portrait of a woman named Elisabet Gyldenstjerne and wondered if maybe Shakespeare might have anglicized that name, too?
Hamlet with Rosencrantz & Guildenstern
So back up: there are two well-known characters in the play named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. These two are childhood friends of Hamlet who are spying on him for King Claudius, the evil uncle.
Well, I did a little research on Wikipedia and, sure enough, Shakespeare anglicized this name, too: “Rosencrantz ('rosary') and Gyldenstjerne/Gyllenstierna ('golden star') were names of Danish (and Norwegian, and Swedish) noble families of the 16th century; records of the Danish royal coronation of 1596 show that one tenth of the aristocrats participating bore one or the other name.” In fact, after Frederick II died (the king who built Kronborg), a courtier named Jørgen Ottesen Rosenkrantz headed up the Regency Council until the next king, Christian IV, came of age. And a later member of the Sehesteds, the family connected to Broholm Castle, was born in 1721 with the name Elisabeth Rosenkrands Gyldenstjerne Sehested.
In the southwest corner of the castle I saw a brick wall with gothic window openings to nowhere. It's possible that this inner wall was part of the original medieval fortress called Krogen, around which Kronborg was built.
Anyway, I was curious about what lied behind this wall, so I held my phone up to snap a quick photo through the opening. It looked to be a “backstage” area filled with period costumes for the actors, as you can just make out below:
Parts of Kronborg's south wing are devoted to the play. Before you reach the gift shop, you pass through a gallery of stills from various productions of Hamlet. Below are few I photographed, celebrating the actors who have famously performed it:
Michael Caine played Horatio to Christopher Plummer's Hamlet in a 1964 BBC television production filmed at the castle called Hamlet at Elsinore. Martin Clunes' father, Alec Clunes, played Polonius and a very young Donald Sutherland played Fortinbras. You can watch the entire program below:
When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive at the castle, Hamlet (Plummer) first greets them through a window and then descends down this staircase to continue his conversation with them in the courtyard. In my photograph, you can see that the portico dates the doorway to 1584. Notice how the first stone step is visibly worn down from centuries of use.
In another shot from the BBC production, Ophelia (Jo Maxwell Muller) is kneeling in the king's chamber with that gaudy, marble Baroque fireplace behind her. Below is a photograph I took showing more detail. It was Frederick II and Sophie's son, King Christian IV, who introduced the Baroque style into the king and queen's apartments on the third floor in the 1630s.
In this evening scene, Horatio (Caine) pauses before one of two Greek-styled statues just to the right of the archway leading into the castle courtyard. My photograph of the same area, the north side of the castle, was taken in daylight, showing more detail.
In his performance of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Christopher Plummer leans his head against the twisted spine of the castle's spiral staircase in the southern tower, shown below in a photograph I took descending the same stone steps, myself.
This plaque hangs on Kronborg's northern curtain wall: “The legend tells of a prince, AMLETH, who lived in Jutland in the Viking Age. Saxo wrote down his story in the Middle Ages. Shakespeare reenacted Hamlet's fate in the Renaissance and attached it to this castle. He secured the Danish prince's eternal reputation and spread Helsingør's name throughout the world.”
Thank you for reading and joining us on our travels! We're Allan and Stephanie... making our way through middle age.
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