Kronborg Castle, Copenhagen where Hamlet was set
Everything about William Shakespeare is a mystery – his birth or his life or his death. But some records say that he died on April 23, 1616 and his funeral was on April 25. 400 years after the death of his playwright, his plays still live on, some in the minds of the people, some in monuments like Kronborg Castle Copenhagen in Denmark , where Shakespeare set his Hamlet. On the 400th death anniversary of Shakespeare, let us visit the home of Hamlet at Kronborg Palace Copenhagen.
Denmark to me has always been a fairy tale world where Little Mermaids , Ugly Ducklings and Tin Soldiers roamed around created by Hans Christian Anderson. And in this atmosphere of fantasy, I also see ghosts walking around. It is drama all around me when I set eyes on the formidable Kronborg Castle Copenhagen, built along the sound, the waters that separate Sweden and Denmark. And this is where Hamlet, Prince of Denmark lived and died, according to Shakespeare.
We are in a large hall and the scene that is enacted in front of us is from Act 5, Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There is a note of tragedy in the air. Horario whispers to his dying friend, “I am more an antique Roman than a Dane, “ as the latter lies on the ground poisoned after a duel. Horatio wants to die along with him but Hamlet insists tha he lives on to narrate his story to the world.
A tour of Kronborg Castle Copenhagen with Horatio
So, here I am in Kronborg Castle Copenhagen where Hamlet breathed his last, listening intently to Horatio’s narration. The last scene is rather poignant as it that takes place in the Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark. Every room in the castle tells a story from Hamlet’s life and I am finally in one which transforms into an arena where duels were fought. A tragedy with revenge as the theme, Hamlet has avenged his father’s death by killing his uncle but he has been poisoned by his opponent, Laertes’ sword. Eventually Laertes is killed as well .Horatio ends his narration poignantly, “ Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince. “ The mood is melancholic even if it is just theatre of the mind.
While I have been to countless beautiful castles in Denmark, this moment is special. It had been a dream to visit Hamlet’s castle, also known as Kronborg at Helsingor or Elsinore where Shakespeare had set his play. Located at the Danish coast across Sweden, the Renaissance castle surrounded by canons and overlooking the sound was built by King Frederick 11 in 16th century. Destroyed by fire , it was eventually rebuilt by King Christian IV
Standing there and gazing at the massive monument, I can feel the tragedy in the air. The drama is enacted by nature as well, as overcast clouds suddenly gather around the sky painting it dark grey. I am in awe at this UNESCO World Heritage Site while my guide in the guise of Horatio tells me that that the original Hamlet was created even before Shakespeare by Saxo Grammaticus in his History of Danes.
Along with Horatio, I go on a tour of the castle as he narrates scenes from the play in every room. The fortress takes us into the dark and dingy casements, the royal chambers, the silent chapel and the final arena where the last scene of the tragedy is set . I dont encounter the famous ghost but another Danish hero in the vaults. We hear of the legendary Danish hero, Holger Danske, who chose to sleep here undisturbed until he was called upon to fight the enemy. A sculpture shows him sleeping here with his arms crossed and his hand, resting on his sword.
I wondered if Shakespeare had actually visited Kronborg Castle Copenhagen before he wrote this play. Perhalps he imagined this towering fortress with its gloomy casements and dark vaults to be the ideal setting for the play. But the fortress clearly feels haunted and may be Shakespeare is one of the many ghosts watching the play being performed.
Kronborg Castle is just a day trip from Copenhagen . If you are looking for more day trips out of Copenhagen, then do visit Roskilde and explore the many things to do in this town of the Vikings.
Interested in seeing more castles – then see this photo feature on Castles of Poland.
I visited Copenhagen on invitation from their tourism board with a group of journalists.