FWB - How long is your Hamlet?

With global attention spans becoming ever shorter, the virtues of patience and long-term thinking are more relevant than ever for investors.

Recently Andrew Knock, Aviva Investors Fund Manager, was at the Young Vic theatre, enjoying a great new staging of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. Although it was gripping, there was some restlessness in the audience as the running time including interval was about three hours.

I wondered how they would cope with Hamlet, which with over 4,000 lines is Shakespeare’s longest play. Kenneth Branagh made a film version that bravely ran for 242 minutes, although most stagings now cut the play heavily. Zeffirelli’s film, for example, ran for 134 minutes. Hamlet is a prime example because of its length, but many other films and plays are heavily cut versions of longer works.

In Shakespeare’s time, of course, Hamlet would have been performed in full – taking over four hours. If Elizabethans had that much stamina, this is an indication that today’s attention spans have shortened.

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