It is a special experience to take a walk around Kronborg. The great castle bears witness to the fact that history has been written here, and Shakespeare's Hamlet has given the castle the lyrical dimension that placed Kronborg on the world map.
At the same time, there is something relaxingly ordinary about a trip on the embankment. Dogs are being aired, packed lunches are being eaten. And people are fishing. Especially during the spring, when the needle-fish swim through. On the strait, the ferries sail repeatedly to and from Sweden.
Only when one steps in behind the ramparts do the ”tourist attraction” Kronborg truly shine, with its turrets stretching for the heavens and beautifully decorated sandstone. English, German, Swedish, Danish and Chinese chatter mixes together, and the cameras flash without pause.
Kronborg is a world heritage site, and it is immediately obvious why. 200.000 visitors come to the castle each year. Many are attracted by the myth of Prince Hamlet, immortalized by Shakespeare in existential considerations of “to be or not to be”. Perhaps others come to judge just how safely Ogier is sleeping down in the casemates.
The Hamlet Stage
Many great names have participated in the great, yearly performance of William Shakespeare’s world famous play Hamlet, set within the historic framework of Kronborg. As early as 1816, the 200-year of Shakespeare’s death was marked by a production of Hamlet within the walls of the castle. From 1937, different theatres and actors have taken up the mantle and played the story of the troubled prince of Denmark, in a yearly production of Hamlet.
Egnsteatret HamletScenen (Regional theatre HamletScenen) was established in 2008 as a self-owning institution, replacing Hamlet Sommer. HamletScenen presents not just one yearly interpretation of Hamlet. Other productions and reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s works also find their way to the castle yard, the beautiful halls, and mysterious chambers of Kronborg.
Shakespeare and Kronborg
English playwright and poet William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, and died there in 1616. Shakespeare was not well known in his time, but since then his works have become nearly legendary, especially his plays.
It is actually highly unlikely that Shakespeare ever visited Kronborg himself, and it is likely that he imagined Kronborg as a medieval castle, more like its predecessor Krogen than the renaissance castle Kronborg was turned into by Frederik 2.
According to myth, the statue of Ogier the Dane in the casemates of Kronborg will rise and protect the homeland if Denmark is ever threatened. The myth originates not from Denmark, but from France, where it can be found for the first time in the medieval work ”Rolandskvadet”.
In 1534, a Danish re-imagining by Christiern Pedersen is released. The author is from Elsinore, and thus the story is connected to Kronborg. Ogier the Dane is an important national symbol, and authors like H.C Andersen and B.S. Ingemann has contributed to the myth of the Danish hero.
Did you know, that the ”real” Ogier the Dane actually rests in Hotel Marienlyst in Elsinore? The bronze statue created by Hans Pedersen-Dan was ordered by the hotel in 1907, and it is the plaster statue, which the actual statue was based on, that was been placed in the casemates in Kronborg. When the plaster statue crumbled, it was replaced in 1985 by a copy made of concrete, which is the one you see today on a visit beneath Kronborg.
1420s: Erik af Pommern builds a heavily fortified keep, named ”Krogen” (”The hook”), to control and toll the shipping trade in Øresund.
1577: Kronborg receives its name from Frederik 2., who was responsible for the construction of a castle on this slim piece of land in the years 1574-1585.
1629: A September night, an enormous fire ravages the castle. Frederik 2.’s son, Christian 4., is responsible for the reconstruction, which also involves new decorations in a baroque style.
1690: Christian 5. constructs Kronværket as an advanced defence against attacks from land.
1785: Kronborg is turned into a barracks, and is in the hands of the military until 1923.
1935: After a thorough renovation, Kronborg opens as a museum.
2000: Kronborg is officially added to UNESCO’s world heritage list.
2013: The new maritime museum, M/S Museet for Søfart, in the old dry dock between Kulturværftet and Kronborg, will open in 2013 and replace the current trade- and maritime museum on Kronborg. The freed up space on Kronborg will be used to make modern updates to the museum.