So Elsinore Castle’s real name is Kronborg Slot, and so it was built centuries after the time of the Danish prince in whom Shakespare based his tormented, brooding Hamlet. But his fortified Nordic icon of secret passages, with its suitably dungeon and canon-studded battlements, could not have been a better backdrop for Shakespeare’s dark tragedy.
After several miles of sleepy fishing villages along the coastal road north of Copenhagen, the great moat-encircled castle rises above the town of Helsingor that grew up around it. Filling its vast coffers via “400 years of legal piracy,” Helsingor Castle (as it is also called) collected tolls paid to the Danish crown from passing ships, until taxes were abolished in 1857.
Hamlet’s Elsinore, originally built in 1420 and enlargened in 1574, Kronborg had all the trappings og a great regal Renaissance residence. Its starkly furnished Knights Hall is one of the largest and oldest in northern Europe; the luxurious caste chapel is still the dream of wedding location for many a lucky Danish couple.
Occasional performances of Hamlet are staged in the torch-lit courtyard where audiences can envision the inky fog and the tormented prince agonizing over the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
Meanwhile, somewhere off in a dark and dank chamber reposes the spirit of Viking chief Holger Danske, a mythic Charlemange-era hero: legend has it that as long as he sleeps, the kingdom of Denmark will be safe.