The Story of Hamlet
Hamlet, prince of Denmark, is engrossed in his studies in Germany. Suddenly, he is torn from his books when he learns that his father, the king, is dead. He returns to his childhood home, Kronborg Castle, where he discovers to his horror that his mother, Queen Gertrude, has married his uncle Claudius - and not only that. He also discovers that Claudius has seized the throne. Hamlet is in shock. Matters only get worse when one night Hamlet meets his father’s ghost who tells him that he was murdered by Claudius.
The king’s assassin shows his hand
Hamlet plots his revenge. To gain time, Hamlet pretends that he has lost his mind. Hamlet's relationship with the young and beautiful Ophelia comes to light, but even to his beloved he has to wear a mask and act as if he was insane. The seemingly mad, unpredictable, mischievous and arrogant Hamlet drives Ophelia insane.
Hamlet hires some actors to perform a play about the regicide in order to expose the truth about his murderous uncle. Claudius attends the performance. His reaction to the play gives the game away. Claudius tries to murder Hamlet, but Hamlet is cunning and escapes.
Hamlet’s beloved dies of grief
Together with his best friend and only confidant, Horatio, Hamlet encounters a gravedigger in the cemetery outside the castle. A skull is dug up. Hamlet grabs the skull and philosophises on the transience of life. A funeral cortege arrives, and Hamlet discovers that the grave being dug is for the body of his beloved Ophelia. In her grief over Hamlet’s apparent and sudden loss of sanity, she has taken her own life by drowning herself in the river.
The hour for revenge
Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, blames Hamlet for his sister's death. He wants to avenge her death by challenging Hamlet to a duel. Laertes smears poison onto his sword, but during the duel the swords are switched and both Laertes and Hamlet are poisoned. Meanwhile, the queen drinks a glass of poisoned wine which Claudius has intended for Hamlet. When Hamlet sees his mother die and learns that he has been poisoned, he kills Claudius.
At that moment, the Norwegian prince Fortinbras arrives at the head of
his army and seizes the Danish throne. All the main characters in the play are now
dead – except for Horatio.
Shortly before his death, Hamlet asks his friend to tell the story so that it lives on into posterity.
The first performance of Hamlet at Kronborg
Amateur actors performed Hamlet for the first time at Kronborg in 1816 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. 100 years later, the Danish Royal Theatre commemorated the 300th anniversary with a performance in the castle courtyard. But it was not until 1937 that the performances became a recurring event. These performances have attracted big international names to the cast. Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, John Gielgud, Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, Simon Russell Beale and Jude Law have all starred in the performances at Kronborg Castle.