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Hamlet’s Elsinore by Ida Lorentzen

My first visit to Kronborg Castle was in the summer of 2002. It is here in ancient Denmark that Shakespeare’s story of Hamlet takes place in a castle called Elsinore.

I have always painted rooms and when I first enter the Ballroom in Kronborg Castle I felt a strong connection to both the room and to Hamlet. I was struck by the power displayed in the enormous tile floor versus the mysterious sunlight shining through the lead glass windows. I consider myself a Realist but my paintings also involve the aspect of dream and illusion. Upon entering a room, as I see it, one is confronted on both a conscious and subconscious level, both at the same time. This can be compared with the confusion Hamlet felt, not knowing what he saw.

My paintings are often described as interiors with a recent absence, depicting a life once lived. In his desperation, Hamlet wanted to commit suicide, but refrained in fear of what would become of him in life after death. In our lives, where modern man no longer believes in a life after death, I have always felt that there was something more, a kind of contact with dear ones who have passed away. This feeling intensified itself when I entered the Ballroom.

There are also other reasons why I have wanted to work with Kronborg and “Hamlet”. It is Shakespeare’s only play set in Scandinavia. Furthermore, it is a Norwegian prince who takes over Elsinore at the play’s end assuming the crown.

During the 1600’s, Kronborg was considered a central power in The Northern Regions. As all roads had lead to Rome, all the sea routes led to Kronborg. With a powerful navy fleet, Kronborg’s King could be threatening to the people of Shakespeare’s England In addition, they had not forgotten that not only had the Romans invaded England but the Danes as well. History could repeat itself.

The third reason is my long-lasting love of Ibsen and his plays. As a young man Ibsen felt trapped in Norway and longed for Kronborg, with its passages to the Continent full of opportunities. Hamlet, on the other hand, felt trapped in Kronborg. This feeling of claustrophobia is something we can all relate to, often in a family situation.

I think that this has something to do with the connection between the outer and the inner walls. My focus lies on the inner walls of Kronborg depicting how Hamlet viewed Elsinore – a prison. There are windows but we cannot see out; we see only the light. Although trapped inside, we have a sense of a world out there giving us hope. The contrast of the outer and inner fascinates me, how Hamlet viewed Elsinore completely different than the English and the opposite of Ibsen’s view. My paintings tell about what Hamlet saw, on the inside, from his perspective.