This post is something of a spin-off from the “Ophelia Was Pushed!” thread going on earlier.
Shakespeare wrote a play. It has a start and a finish, and either he puts something on stage, or he has somebody tell of something that happened off stage.
What about everything else? What’s your opinion?
In my other life, the one with all the computers, we have this idea of “specifications”. Any good project is supposed to have a good specification, which defines all the inputs to the system and how the system handles them. Inevitably there are conditions that are missed, and for those we say simply that the behavior is “undefined.”
As computer geeks we’re cool with that having a certain meaning – it doesn’t mean “these inputs can never be provided”, it means “the system can do whatever it wants, and each implementation of the system may handle it differently.”
I see something very similar here with Shakespeare’s work. He gave us a closed system. He left some stuff undefined. So when those questions come up we could say “Those questions cannot be asked, because they cannot be answered” or we could say, “Since Shakespeare does not answer them, it is understood that we can answer them however we think is right.”
What’s your position on this? Tolerable, because you can’t stop it? Or perfectly natural and welcome? I don’t have to like or agree with any individual interpretation, of course, much like I can see a certain implementation of a spec and say “Well, no, that behavior makes no sense to me.” But I’m perfectly happy with the rule that “undefined” means “do whatever you think is right.”
UPDATE: For bonus points, point to an example of a production where something was added that clearly Shakespeare never said. Isn’t there an example from history where Fortinbras shows up, and his line “Bid the soldiers shoot” is actually an order to execute Horatio?