Kronborg Castle marks 400th anniversary of Shakespeare
Kronborg Castle is also known as Hamlet’s Castle and has been the setting for this annual theatrical spectacle since 1816. Kronborg Castle is located an hour north of Copenhagen on the North Sealand coast at Elsinore,
A series of Shakespearean plays have been performed by international artists for the first week of August each year, in a tradition dating back 200 years.
For the 400th anniversary, this will be extended to a three week-long event for the first time. One of the biggest highlights will be the production of Hamlet (to be performed in English), which may then go on a world tour throughout the rest of 2016 and be screened in selected cinemas worldwide, subject to final confirmation.
Specially for families, the annual Shakespeare Puppet theatre will do performances each day during July with half hour long silent interpretations of Shakespeare’s classics created by some of the world’s most acknowledged puppet theatre companies.
A historic and cultural relation between England and Denmark
During the festival, performances by actors from the Globe Theatre in London are also planned and these are especially moving given the special relationship that dates back to The Bard himself. Three of his troupe of the Lord Chamberlains Men performed for the king of Denmark, Frederik II in Kronborg Castle in 1586, which was at the time Europe’s most controversial and modern renaissance court, creating a historic cultural bridge between Denmark and England.
“The Tragic History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”
When Shakespeare wrote “The Tragic History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”around 1600, it is presumed he was inspired by a story first recorded by Saxo Grammaticus in his ‘History of Denmark’ more than 800 years ago. The myth was passed on to Christiern Pedersen who in 1514 published the story of ‘Amled’. This publication was then reproduced in 1590 by the English dramatist Thomas Kyd and later the play became a tragedy on revenge.
If Shakespeare actually visited Elsinore or not is unknown. It is certain though that several English and Scottish actors from his circle performed as guest players at Kronborg Castle and in the city of Elsinore. Through these people, stories about the castle could have reached Shakespeare and inspired him to situate the play in the Danish settings.
Long tradition of performances at Kronborg Castle
When a group of soldiers in 1816, stationed at the garrison of Kronborg Castle commemorated the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a performance of Hamlet in the Canon Hall, located in the characteristically square Telegraph Tower, the tradition for the performance of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle re-emerged.
The first international company of actors arrived from London in 1837 with a performance in the Castle courtyard by William Charles Macready in the leading role. In 1916, the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare was celebrated by a cast of actors from the Danish National Theatre performing on the ramparts of Kronborg Castle.
Prominent British actors
In 1937 saw the beginning of the National Open Air Theatre with a performance by Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. In nearly 20 years, interrupted only by World War II, several other famous British Shakespearean actors have joined international artists at Kronborg, including Sir John Gielgud (1939) and Richard Burton (1954). In later years, under the leadership of various other producers, many more prominent names including Christopher Plummer (1964), Derek Jacobi (1979) and Kenneth Branagh (1988) joined the prominent list.
Additionally, it is tradition for the Hamlet stage to host guest plays from all over the world. Plays, which have included actors such as Simon Russell Beale (2000) and Jude Law (2009). In 2016, the production will for the first time ever be performed by an international in-house production, details of which are yet to be announced.