On The Tempest. Baldwin says something very similar to what Langbaum says in one of my post’s epigraphs, but from a broader perspective.
Langbaum: “. . . romance deals in marvelous events and solves its problems through metamorphoses and recognition scenes – through, in other words, transformations of perception.”
Baldwin wouldn’t disagree, I don’t think, but he sees “metamorphoses and recognition” as inherent in theater, not just in romance. The “tension between the real and the imagined is the theater,” Baldwin says, “and this is why the theater will always remain a necessity. One is not in the presence of shadows [as at the cinema], but responding to one’s flesh and blood; in the theater, we are recreating each other . . . we are all each other’s flesh and blood.”
Baldwin got converted as a young teen, he suggests, to escape Macbeth and the flesh and blood of theater: “Macbeth was a nigger, just like me, and I saw the witches in church, every Sunday, and all up and down the block, all week long, and Banquo’s face was a familiar face. At the same time, the majesty and torment on that stage were real . . .”
Baldwin was a playwright as well as a novelist and essayist. My quotes are from Baldwin’s No Name in the Street, the fourth book of his essays I’ve read this year.