Sunday, September 11, 2016

Something delightful in the State of Denmark

A pleasant pre-term trip to Lund University occupied me last week. One flies to Copenhagen to get to southern Sweden: this gave me the idea that I could spin out my trip home with a trip to Elsinore.

I'd already seen signs of the Danish part-ownership of Prince Hamlet (often underpinned by allusions to the Amleth in Saxo Grammaticus). In a north side suburb of Copenhagen, I saw 'Hamlet's pizza'; this is Hamlet's bike shop:

I duly penned some of the dialogue one might expect in there:

Scene: the interior of a bike shop. Hamlet stands, clad in oily black. He is trying a wheel in a bike frame, ignoring Customer 1.
Long silence.
Hamlet (to himself) "O, how the wheel becomes it ... It goes most heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame has not sold yet."
Customer 1 (finally) "Ahem, good morning, Hamlet, I popped in to see if you had fitted that replacement derailleur hanger yet?"
Hamlet: "I do not know why yet I live to say, 'This thing's to do'. Within a month ... a little month."
Customer 1: So you haven't done it, then? I was the more deceived!
Hamlet reaches under counter, produces a skull
Hamlet: "How long will a customer stand in my shop ere he rot?"
Customer 2 enters shop suddenly, and above the ringing of the door bell, shouts
Customer 2: "Tis twice two months!"
Hamlet: "Now might I do it, Pat, had I but time..."

But of course it is Elsinore that is Hamlet-central. It's about a 40 minute train journey to the town of Elsinore. The English traveller rides along, in a state of vague disbelief or unease at the processes of such an efficient railway system.
Elsinore was wonderful: my visit saw it bathed in light. You emerge from the 19th century Renaissance-styled Station, to find Ophelia with her garlands and a wardrobe malfunction, and a Hamlet, large of lower limb and suffering from a dodgy hair style. I think he's drawing his sword at Claudius, but as he's looking at her, it all looks too too symbolic.

The royal castle, Kronborg, can be seen ahead: 

But, before you get there, walk the town's other sights. St Olaf's church is a stunning mix of brilliant white limewash, gilding, and brass: 

An extraordinarily nice inhabitant of this fascinating place explained to me that Elsinore never had a major fire: everything has survived, and everything shines with care:

When you get through the later outworks and into the earlier part of Kronborg, a slightly Scandinavian William Shakespeare greets the visitor (the inscription explains about the original Amleth story):

Frederik II administered his realm from here.

I was delighted by an exhibition of photographs of productions of Hamlet at the castle. The tradition apparently goes back as far as to the bi-centenary of Shakespeare's death, 1816.

Richard Burton in 1954

Burton again, with Claire Bloom as his Ophelia.

Sir Larry, looking like a god (1937)

Vivienne Leigh wringing her hands, quite understandably.

And John Gielgud, looking like he's got up to play Widow Twanky in panto.

But here he is again with a blanched Fay Compton as Ophelia (1939)

A pair of Danish performers, Gustaf Grundgens and Marianne Hoppe, making Hamlet and Ophelia look rather too closely related (1938).

Nicolai Neilendam as Hamlet, Bodil Ipsen as Ophelia, in 1916

Bodil Ipsen again

I liked this intense and very Danish Hamlet, from 2004.

Back outside and on the quayside, I visited a 'Amlet alias Hamlet' in the cultural centre: responses by various artists to the text. The library has a delightful Shakespeare corner.

Here I looked at a book of photographs of more recent productions of the play or partly-staged reactions to the play, Shakespeare at Hamlet's Castle: 12 interpretations of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, images taken by the photographer Arne Magnussen.

I'm posting these not-at-all copyright conscious photographs of photographs for my colleague Christie, who isn't very well at the moment, but I think she will enjoy seeing them. I will remove the images with apologies if needs be:

The ghost, in a kind of installation-performance

A more conventionally-unconventional Hamlet.

Claudius, as a kind of drinker and weather god. 

A distraught,glammed-up, ruined Ophelia.

And an operatic looking Ophelia

Altogether, 'something delightful in the State of Denmark'. A memorable day, perfect really.

1 comment:

Christie Carson said...

Thank you Roy! Christie