More than Just Hamlet's Home: The Kronborg Castle
"I am more an antique Roman than a Dane," proclaimed Horatio in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Perhaps to some, but for those at Kronborg Castle, the Prince of Denmark and his posse are as Danish as havarti cheese. The Hamlet-Castle connection sprung up more than 800 years ago and still persists today on the page, the stage, and the manicured grounds of the centuries-old palace in Elsinore, Denmark. Yet while the property is often called Hamlet's Castle, there is no confusion over its real-life dwellers.
The castle started off as a fortress, built in the 1420s by the Danish king, Erik of Pomerania. Sitting pretty on the tip of the Sound, it was used as a tollbooth to collect dues from passing ships. Next came Frederick II, who in the late 16th century transformed the utilitarian fortress into a fairy-tale Renaissance castle, replete with marble fireplaces, ceiling paintings, and tapestries. The king also changed the name from Krogen to Kronborg, and fined an ox from anyone who called it otherwise. In 1629, after a chaotic series of misfortunes, Kronborg fell off its pedestal. There was a fire, a Swedish occupation, and the arrest of the young Queen of Denmark, who was incarcerated in the castle tower for having a fling with the king's physician. Eventually, all the royals fled to their other castles and the property was converted into a slave prison and, later, barracks. Since then, the only regal personage to return has been Sir Laurence Olivier, for a performance of Hamlet.
After the barracks closed in 1922, Kronborg Castle underwent major restoration to return the property to its 16th-century glory. Visitors can wander through the king's and queen's quarters, the great hall (one of the longest in Scandinavia), and the dank casement, where Viking chief Holger Danske sits like a slab of stone, waiting to rise up against any enemy of the state. The castle grounds also house a chapel and the Danish Maritime Museum, all of which are open year-round.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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