History

History

THE CULTURAL BRIDGE BETWEEN ENGLAND´S SHAKESPEARE AND DENMARK´S KRONBORG CASTLE

In late summer 1586 three English actors, William Kemp, Thomas Pope and George Bryan travelled home to London, having completed a summer season at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, where they had been hired by Denmark’s theatre- and art-loving king, Frederick II. Back in London, they met the young, charismatic actor and budding playwright, William Shakespeare and soon became part of his theatre company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. In the early 1590s the theatre company presented the first of Shakespeare’s own works, including Henry VI and Richard III. In next to no time the young William Shakespeare shot to fame with his worldly wise, entertaining and historical dramas.

THE STORY OF HAMLET´S CASTLE IN ELSINORE

In 1601 Shakespeare published the final version of his pioneering renaissance drama, Hamlet: a story about the procrastinating Danish prince, Hamlet, which was based on an ancient legend about honour killings, which appeared in Denmark’s first history book, written by Saxo Grammaticus in the 1200s. The Castle has since become known throughout the world as “Hamlet’s Castle in Elsinore”.

THE WORLD´S OLDEST SHAKESPEARE TRADITION

It all began in 1816, when a group of soldiers, stationed at the garrison of Kronborg Castle, celebrated the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a performance of Hamlet in the canon hall, located in the characteristically square telegraph tower. Later in 1837 the first international company from London visited the Castle courtyard with a performance, which starred William Charles Macready in the leading role. In 1916 the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was marked. This time a cast of actors from the Danish national theatre performed on the ramparts of Kronborg Castle.

1937 witnessed the inauguration of the National Open Air Theatre, and for almost 20 years, interrupted only by World War II, a string of the world’s greatest actors performed at Kronborg Castle. They included Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Gustaf Gründgens, Sir John Gielgud, Fay Compton, Michael Redgrave, Richard Burton and many others. Later, under the leadership of various other producers, several more prominent names (for example, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Derek Jacobi and Kenneth Branagh) joined the distinguished list. 

Meanwhile, in the last two decades, two institutions, Hamlet Summer (2000- 2007) and (since 2008) “HamletScenen”, have made their own special contribution, and renowned Shakespearean actors such as Simon Russell Beale, David Dencik, Jude Law, Lars Eidinger etc. have also appeared at Kronborg Castle. 

Since 2000 Hamlet’s Castle Kronborg has been a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it is famous throughout the world mainly as Hamlet’s Castle.

SHAKESPEARE DOUBLE ANNIVERSARY IN 2016

In 2016 we marked both the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 200th anniversary of the world’s oldest Shakespearean tradition at Kronborg Castle, HamletScenen will celebrate Shakespeare with a unique double anniversary. The event also marked the beginning of HamletScenen’s program of forward-looking international activities.