If I say, “The other night, I went to a performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice,” then I am saying that 1) the play ‘belongs’ to Shakespeare and 2) the main character is probably the Merchant of Venice.
Prior to going to the play, I read it. When I read it, I saw that the main character was the Merchant of Venice. His name is Antonio, and he proves himself to be incredibly selfless and, for the most part, noble. He is obviously intended to be Christ-like in some of his attributes. We see this in the symbolism used and in his words and actions. He is willing to give anything to his friend, and he is the embodiment of the line from Scripture, being someone willing to give up his life for the sake of his friend. He has little to say during the trial, even though his own flesh is being demanded by his brutal and heartless enemy.
Antonio’s enemy is named Shylock. Shylock is utterly devoid of mercy. He has some good lines, but there is no doubt that Shakespeare intended us to understand that the Jewish Shylock has a black heart, set on money and revenge. Yet when Shylock must choose between money and revenge, he embraces revenge. We see this twice. First, we see that his hatred of Antonio is such that Shylock would prefer to personally do physical harm to Antonio (extract a pound of flesh near Antonio’s heart using his knife) than accept double or triple the payment of his debt. Second, we see that when Shylock’s own daughter elopes with a gentile, Shylock is more concerned that she has taken his jewels and money than he is with her well being. As a matter of fact, he wishes she were dead at his feet, with the jewels nearby.
At the end of the play, Shakespeare unites the three couples we have met. Each of these relationships needed to undergo some testing, but this is a comedy, which means happy endings for the good guys (and gals). As for the bad guy, we’ve seen his evil plan come to naught. This is Shakespeare’s version. It’s Shakespeare’s play.
However, what I saw the other night wasn’t Shakespeare’s play. I’ll say it was a pretty good play, but it wasn’t his play. (For the record, I’ll say I liked the costumes and the set. The casting choices were good, though I would’ve chosen differently for Antonio and Solanio shouldn’t have become Solania. John Wright was impressive as Shylock.)
The real play ends with a rhyming and rather silly poem from the rather silly Gratiano. It ends on a comic note, with all the happy people planning to stay up all night talking and laughing about everything that’s happened.
The play I saw didn’t end happily. It had been quite true to the script, but at the very end, it went in a different direction entirely. Two of the three romances fell apart and did not recover. The play ended by giving centre stage to a character named Jessica.
(Jessica is Shylock’s daughter. She has very few lines in the play, and, as a character, isn’t very important. We learn next to nothing about her as an individual. She defies her father, whom she does not respect, in eloping with Lorenzo, a Christian. That’s the main thing about her. She steals some of her father’s possessions on her way out the door and is embarrassed at her disguise, but that’s about it.)
When this version of the play ended, all the characters, other than Jessica, left the stage. Lorenzo left and so did the main character, the merchant of Venice. The lights dimmed, leaving a spotlight on Jessica, who sat down on the steps with her guitar. She sang. She’s got a nice voice and the song was poignant. La la la. The tree is alone. All the birds have flown.
The only thing is, this is not the way Shakespeare intended his story to end.
We see her father in the background. It’s night. He’s packing his bags. He’s a broken man, is the point. He’s sad. She’s sad. La la la.
Why are we focusing on these two? Why the change? We were supposed to see all the ‘good’ characters finally united without any threat to their happiness. Instead, our attention is directed here, to the merchant and his daughter. Shylock is alone, Jessica is alone and they’re sad and the play ends and the audience claps and leaves, a little bit sad.
The Money Lender of Venice and His Daughter?
Where’s Shakespeare? What would he think? Is this when he comes back from the dead and says “Wait, wait! It ends not thus! All ends well! All ends well!”
Is this when Blogger goes up on stage and says, “People! People, it’s not like this! It’s not supposed to go like this! There’s no sad song at the end! Jessica is happy at the end, and so is Lorenzo! People, Nerissa doesn’t storm off, leaving her husband dismayed! She’s happy and so is he! Happily ever after, times three!”
Ah. I think I’ll pass. No onstage time for me.
I’ll write instead. It’s what a blogger does. The page is my stage.
The play is, on some level, a mess. Is there a character who is entirely clean? In his play, The Surprise, Chesterton wrote two versions of one story. The external circumstances are the same in each story, but in the first version, each person acts his best. Nobody commits a moral error. In the second version, everyone is a worse version of himself, choosing wrongly and reaping the consequences.
So I thought I’d give you a list, a list of everything that everyone does wrong in The Merchant of Venice. I’m not talking about innocent errors. I’m talking about sins.
I group them by role, since there are so many. Also, I make a note where it is unclear whether a sin has been committed or not.
Sometimes it’s clear that the person chose to be immoral. As in real life, most situations about right and wrong are pretty clear. They may not be easy situations, but they are clear. You don’t have to lie, cheat, steal and kill. True, circumstances are important, but we know that the end doesn’t justify the means. In other words, you might think that you have a good reason for lying, but that decision to lie is the first thing. For another example, if you call someone less than human, it doesn’t matter that you were provoked. The context is important, but the decision to choose those words is the key thing, and the context cannot absolve you completely. When, in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare has Bassanio encourage the judge “to do a great right, do a little wrong,” (IV,i) Shakespeare knows that it’s a flawed principle.
Nevertheless, there are other things which may appear to be sinful, but which are, in fact, fine. If Shylock says he hates someone, that is also not necessarily a sin, because one has very little control over whom he likes and dislikes. To dislike someone is not a sin. To intensely dislike, i.e., to hate someone, might not be a sin either, but of course it begins to get more culpable the greater the intensity. Also, to deliberately feed one’s dislike or hatred of someone is a sin. To fail to curb one’s desire to act on that dislike is, usually, a sin. In addition, hating someone because they are a member of a particular group, nation or religion, is sinful.
Criticisms or insults are very tricky, because it depends on the exact wording and on the motive of the speaker. Some sets of words are not saved by a good intention, whereas other words can be. Often the distinction comes down to whether the truth has been spoken. If I call you treacherous, that can be fine, if it’s true. If I call you dishonest, that can be fine, if it’s true. If I call you greedy, that can be fine, if it’s true. If I say something that you don’t want to hear, but which is nevertheless true, then the issue comes down to motive. For what reason do I say what I do? Do I say it to make you feel badly, or do I have another motive? It is simplistic to say, “Ah, here is something unpleasant to hear; the speaker is being mean.” It may be the Canadian way of evaluating right and wrong, but it’s not in fact the Christian way. As I’ve said more than once, ‘niceness’ isn’t the test of holiness. There are many Scriptural exhortations to say what is true; have we forgotten? The fact that we’ve lost our nerve to speak plainly or to challenge each other directly doesn’t mean that Scripture is wrong. Saying what you mean isn’t always mean.
To return to Shakespeare’s play, in more than a handful of cases, we just don’t have enough information about fact and intention to tell whether a sin has been committed. When, for example, Portia negatively describes her suitors, what is her intention? How does she feel towards them? I’ll mark those “IC” (It’s Complicated.)
So here we go. Alphabetical, shall we?
ANTONIO, the merchant of Venice
1. agreeing to a contract in which non-payment of debt by the due date gives Shylock the right to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh (I,iii)
2. spitting upon Shylock (referred to at I, iii)
3. being unrepentant for spitting upon Shylock, and saying he might do so again (I,iii)
4. calling Shylock a cutthroat dog (I,iii)
5. being unrepentant about calling Shylock a cutthroat dog (I,iii)
5. (According to Shylock): laughing at Shylock’s losses, scorning Shylock’s nation and hating Shylock on the basis of his nation (III,i)
6. making Shylock’s conversion to Christianity a condition to reduce Shylock’s monetary punishment – specifically, he says he will use Shylock’s money only during Shylock’s life, instead of having it absolutely if Shylock converts to Christianity (IV,i)
7. encouraging Bassanio to give away the ring, saying that it would be better to value the assistance of the judge and the love of Antonio over Bassanio’s wife’s command (IV,i)
8. swearing on his soul to Portia that Bassanio will never again intentionally break a vow that he has made (V,i)
9. (IC) minimizing the possibility that his ventures may fail, especially in light of what is at stake (I,iii)
10. (IC) according to Shylock, railing against Shylock for charging interest, even in public (I,iii)
11. (IC) according to Shylock, hating Judaism (I,iii)
12. (IC) calling Shylock a misbeliever (I,iii)
13. (IC) being unapologetic about calling Shylock a misbeliever (I,iii)
14. (IC) according to Shylock, calling Shylock an usurer (III,i)
15. (IC) according to Shylock, disgracing Shylock, hindering and thwarting his business, cooling his friends, heating his enemies (III,i)
BASSANIO, in love with Portia
1. indebting Antonio to Shylock, to the tune of three thousand ducats ($6,000 USD)
2. spending beyond his means in order to impress a woman (I,i)
3. participating in a lottery for marriage (III,ii)
4. referring to Shylock twice as a devil (IV,i)
5. giving away the ring he promised to keep his whole life (IV, i)
BELLARIO, a doctor of the law
1. writing a deceitful letter, full of lies, saying that Portia is a learned young man named Balthasar (IV,i)
JESSICA, daughter of Shylock
1. lying to her father when he asks what Launcelot said (II,v)
2. stealing two bags of double ducats and two rich and precious stones from her father (II,vi)
3. using a ring, given to her father by her mother before they were married, in order to purchase a monkey (III,i)
GRATIANO, friend of Antonio
1. saying to Shylock, “O be thou damned, inexecrable dog” (IV,i)
2. saying to Shylock that he is like a reincarnated wolf who had slaughtered people
3. wishing his wife were dead so that she could entreat someone in heaven to change Shylock (IV,i)
4. telling Shylock that he should beg for leave to hang himself and ridiculing Shylock’s new poverty (IV,i)
5. recommending a noose for Shylock (IV,i) and trying to dissuade Antonio from being merciful
6. talking about having additional godparents in order to bring Shylock to the gallows (IV,i)
6. giving away the ring he promised to keep his whole life (IV,i)
7. (IC) saying that the ring his wife gave him was of little worth (V,i)
LAUNCELOT, servant of Shylock and then Bassanio
1. attempting to trick his father by pretending that he was not Launcelot (II,ii)
2. telling his father that Launcelot was dead (II,ii)
3. attempting to read his future by studying his own palm (II,ii)
4. thinking that Shylock is an incarnation of the devil (II,ii)
5. saying that Shylock deserves a noose (II,ii)
6. saying that the conversion of Jewish people to Christianity is a bad thing for the reason that the price of pork would rise (III,v)
7. causing an unwed woman to conceive a child (III,v)
8. (IC) in playing stupid and playing with words when Lorenzo asks him to ensure that dinner is prepared (III,v)
LORENZO, suitor and then husband of Jessica
1. calling his wife a shrew, jokingly or not (IV,ii)
NERISSA, maidservant of Portia
1. agreeing to participate in a deceitful scheme (III,iv)
2. pretending to not know how Gratiano parted with the ring (V,i)
3. accusing Gratiano of giving the ring to a woman, when she knows that she was in disguise as a man (V,i)
4. saying that she shall be unfaithful to Gratiano if given the opportunity (V,i)
5. telling Gratiano that she will not sleep with him until she sees the ring, which she knows she has (V,i)
6. lying that she has slept with the doctor’s clerk
PORTIA, the heroine
1. agreeing to follow her father’s lottery scheme for marriage, abdicating her responsibility to choose a husband to the best of her ability (I,ii)
2. lying to Lorenzo about her plans (III,iv), saying that she plans to pray at a monastery while waiting
3. writing to her cousin Doctor Bellario and requesting that he write a false letter to the Duke, and requesting that he supply court garments to her so that she can appear to be someone she is not (III,iv)
4. saying, seriously or in jest, that she will deceive people with her boasts while costumed as a man (III,iv)
5. involving her maid, Nerissa, in a deceitful scheme (III,iv)
6. appearing dressed as a doctor of the laws, misleading by her appearance and speech (IV,i)
7. demanding that Bassanio give away the ring he promised to keep and taunting him when he doesn’t (IV,i)
8. pretending to not know that Bassanio gave away his ring, and then pretending to not know the circumstances (V,i)
9. telling Bassanio that she will not sleep with him until she sees the ring, which she knows she has (V,i)
10. accusing Bassanio of giving the ring to a woman, when she knows that she was in disguise as a man (V,i)
11. saying that she shall be unfaithful to Bassanio if given the opportunity (V,i)
12. accepting Antonio’s oath and giving the ring to Bassanio through Antonio (V,i)
13. saying that she has slept with the doctor (V,i)
14. scolding Gratiano for exclaiming about adultery when she was the one who created that impression (V,i)
15. (IC) criticizing the suitors (I,ii)
PORTIA’S FATHER, deceased
1. restricting his daughter’s marriage choice by requiring that she marry the suitor who chooses the correct treasure box
2. restricting the marriage choices of Portia’s suitors by requiring that they vow to never propose marriage to another if they fail in their bid for Portia
PRINCE OF ARRAGON, suitor of Portia
1. participating in a lottery for marriage (II,ix)
PRINCE OF MOROCCO, suitor of Portia
1. participating in a lottery for marriage (II,i)
2. believing that he ‘deserves’ Portia, as if anyone can ‘deserve’ another
SALERIO, friend of Antonio
1. (IC) calling Shylock a creature who bears the shape of a man (III,ii)
SHYLOCK, Jewish moneylender and enemy of Antonio
1. choosing to hate Antonio because: a) Antonio is Christian, b) Antonio lends out money and doesn’t charge interest, thereby lowering the interest rates in Venice (I,iii)
2. plotting to entrap Antonio in order to “feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him” (I,iii)
3. suggesting a contract in which forfeiture of debt gives Shylock the right to take a pound of Antonio’s flesh (I,iii)
4. (According to Launcelot): failing to provide proper food for his servant (II,ii)
5. being more concerned about his stolen ducats than his daughter (II,viii)
6. saying he would use Antonio’s flesh to bait fish (III,i)
7. saying, “I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear! Would she were hearsed at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin!” (III,i)
8. thanking God for Antonio having the misfortune of losing his ship and becoming bankrupt (III,i)
9. plotting revenge against Antonio, “I’ll plague him; I’ll torture him.” (III,i)
10. plotting harm to Antonio “I will have the heart of him if he forfeit” (III,i)
11. calling Antonio the fool who lent out money without charging interest (III,ii)
12. swearing an oath that he shall have his bond, when the bond involves physical injury and potentially death to Antonio (III,iii)
13. swearing an oath “by our holy Sabbath” to collect Antonio’s flesh (IV,i)
14. (According to Jessica): swearing that he would rather have Antonio’s flesh than twenty times the value of the sum that he owed him (III,ii)
15. wishing harm upon the Duke’s charter and the freedom of Venice if he fails to obtain Antonio’s flesh (III,v)
16. referring to Antonio’s body as “carrion flesh” (IV,i)
17. refusing payment for his debt, and instead preferring Antonio’s flesh (IV,i)
18. (IC) saying, “What says that fool of Hagar’s offspring?” when speaking about Launcelot (II,v)
19. (IC) saying his daughter is damned for rebelling against him (III,i)
20. (IC) calling the jailer corrupt (“naughty”) (III,iii)
SOLANIO, friend of Antonio
1. suggesting that the devil could turn into a Jew (III,i)
2. saying that the devil was appearing as a Jew, referring to Shylock (III,i)
2. referring to Shylock as “the dog Jew” (II,viii)
3. addressing Shylock as “old carrion” (III,i)
4. calling Shylock the most impenetrable cur that ever kept with men (III,iii)
1. calling Shylock “an inhuman wretch” (III,v)
2. requiring Shylock’s conversion to Christianity in exchange for the pardon of his life (IV,i)
It’s quite the list, hey? If you were here, then I’d answer your questions about why such-and-such an item is on there, and what factors are aggravating ones and which factors are mitigating ones. As it is, I won’t do more than list the moral failures here.
So what are we to make of all this? It’s complicated, because, as I said, Shakespeare gives Antonio, the hero of the story, many Christ-like attributes, and uses symbolism which directly makes reference to the story of Christ’s suffering and death. However, Shakespeare wanted us to notice that Antonio is rash, in twice binding himself for the benefit of Bassanio, who isn’t the most sensible person in the world. The first time, he dismisses the risk that his ships might fail to come in, and, above Bassanio’s objection, agrees to make an unthinkable deal. (The deal is that he’ll pay with his own flesh the penalty of being overdue on the payment of a debt.) The second time, in case anybody missed it, Antonio swears that his friend Bassanio will never again break an oath to Portia, and accepts her ring on his behalf. It’s reckless, and Shakespeare did it on purpose to show us that Antonio hasn’t learned from his first mistake.
As for Shylock, he uses his religion as an excuse to be unmerciful. It was unnecessary to commit himself to revenge by means of an oath. Nobody required that he swear upon the Sabbath to obtain Antonio’s flesh if he is in a position to do so. The Jewish faith did not and does not require vengeance like this. Yet Shylock shrugs his shoulders and uses his oath as an excuse to justify his obsession with revenge. Someone should have told him that nobody is bound by an oath which is bad from the get-go.
The main difficulty that modern directors will have with The Merchant of Venice is the fact that the bad guy is Jewish. You can’t do the play well pretending Shylock is swell. He’s not. If he hates you, then he looks forward to maiming you. If there’s a risk of death, so much the better; Shylock is unhappy when the judge requests that a doctor stand by to give assistance. That’s what you call a creep. Compounding the problem is that Shylock uses his religion to justify his mercilessness, repeatedly reminding everyone that he’s sworn an oath to his faith.
Having said all that, is it not the case that there are evil people in the world, of all faiths and races? Is it the case that we cannot bear the thought of a script which portrays a non-Christian in the worst light? Let’s think this through. Are certain combinations not allowed? Where, then, is realism? Must we pretend that every person of indigenous background was upright and noble? Must we pretend that every Buddhist is peaceful and prayerful? Why?
To do the play as Shakespeare wrote it is to show that Shylock is evil. The fact that he is Jewish should not justify a rewriting of the play to change Shylock into a sympathetic character by means of sad music and a mournful added scene of him leaving his home. It’s not acceptable to rearrange the play so that both Jessica and Shylock are noticeably alone and sad.
The play is what it is. It’s a play where trickery is funny and is rewarded. It’s a play where the good guys do wrong things and get away with it and even benefit. Jessica steals her father’s jewels and spends them as she likes. The man who elopes with Shylock’s daughter and converts her will inherit Shylock’s estate. Everyone ridicules Shylock and nobody, other than Shylock, says it’s gone too far. It’s a play where jokes about adultery are supposed to be funny and almost everyone lies. The woman who dresses up as a judge receives praise from everyone for her sham trial, and she and her friends have a laugh at the end. Indeed, Portia is said to be virtuous, but she scares me more than any other character, as she drags her maid-servant into imitating her worst behaviours, convinces the doctor of the law to be dishonest, and tempts Bassanio into breaking his promise. She blames her father for his post-death control over her, but she certainly seems to relish pulling strings herself. When she feels herself to be in the driver’s seat, she plays little cat-and-mouse games while everyone around her agonizes. Instead of taking the first opportunity to reveal the truth, she draws things out.
There is no sober voice in this play. Even the learned doctor of the law, stationed in Padua, lends out his robes and writes a false letter in order to dupe the Duke, Shylock, Antonio, and everyone in Venice. The Duke also falls short, and seems to defer excessively to the wishes of Antonio. When Antonio suggests altering the monetary component of the punishment if Shylock converts to Christianity, the Duke goes even further, and says that if Shylock fails to convert, then the Duke will reverse his pardon. The pardon had the effect of sparing Shylock’s life. This last aspect is the most disturbing detail of all. Freedom of religion is everything because it relates to one’s soul so directly. To force anyone, especially on pain of death, to either take on a religion or relinquish one is an affront to human dignity, and violates, entirely, the spirit of Christianity.
Religion is not something to be imposed against one’s will.
Shakespeare’s play is, at the end of the day, a disappointment, sending mixed messages about doing the wrong thing in order to do the right thing. It’s a play where trickery is applauded and where the good guys are arguably more underhanded than the bad. The people who are in charge make things worse, not better.
The play is something like Lewis Carroll’s nightmarish Queen of Hearts scenario. Portia is the queen, and she pulls all the strings. Yet the format is a comedy, and so we are meant to understand that her interventions have been positive. The men have been suitably chastised, the romances will proceed, the selfless merchant has been spared, the selfish Jewish moneylender will no longer be in a position to abuse by lending, the merciless Jewish villain will convert to a more merciful religion and all the good guys will have enough money. Some of Antonio’s ships turn out to be safe and sound, as Portia can prove. Portia and her sidekick are compared to God, raining down manna. As Lorenzo says at the end of the play, “Fair ladies, you drop manna in the way / Of starvèd people.”
The play has, of course, its good parts, and the distinction between “flesh” on the one hand and “blood” on the other, is a very Catholic one, as every Mass we celebrate repeats the distinction. It’s interesting and the importance of the distinction between these words would have been the very seed of the play in Shakespeare’s mind.
As for other parts that I like, I like what Antonio says here at I,iii, 94:
Mark you this, Bassanio,
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
A goodly apple rotten at the heart,
O what a goodly outside falsehood hath!
And I like the inscription on the box of lead, as a description of marriage. The inscription says, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.” (II, vii)
I like the challenge to the concept of ‘deserving,’ and of course the discussion of mercy (IV,i) is great. And of course, who can dislike Shylock’s compelling speech at the beginning of Act III? “. . . I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? . . . ” It’s a gem.
Gratiano’s dismissive description of the ring is also masterful, but in a different way. Gratiano gets things so thoroughly wrong, in missing the power of the “hoop of gold, a paltry ring / That she did give me.” That he finally grasps, at the close of the play, that “Well, while I live I’ll fear no other thing / So sore as keeping safe Nerissa’s ring” is the signal to the audience that things are going to work out all right after all.
And this last point brings me to the last point of the play I saw on Saturday night. The Merchant of Venice is supposed to end on a happy note, and even if I agree that the play is unsatisfying in failing to correct the injustices and in almost ‘blessing’ wrongdoing, I disagree with rewriting the play to change the outcome of key events and changing the mood of the ending.
I have my own issues with the play, having to do with the portrayal of right and wrong, and having to do with the portrayal of the imposition of Christianity as depicted by Shakespeare, among other things.
Nevertheless, one cannot alter significant aspects of the play without rewriting it, and that’s not right either. It is not right to take the creative work of someone else but then mess with it in the parts where it doesn’t say what you want to say. Take it or leave it. If you want to say something different from what the original writer said, then write your own play.
I have heard that The Merchant of Venice has been used by those with an anti-Semitic agenda as a way of furthering their goals. In order to do this, they must distort the play, because the play is complex. No character really comes off completely well, and Shakespeare’s eloquent passage about the equal dignity of all is perhaps the most memorable part of the play.
Those who alter the play to promote anti-Semitic views do a disservice to Shakespeare and art in general, but I do not limit my criticism to those who use the play in that way. Any director who knowingly rewrites someone else’s play to make it correspond with their own views is on thin ice. It is the job of a director to refuse to alter someone else’s voice to match their own. The fact that copyright doesn’t apply does not mean that the writer’s voice can be set aside.
This should be obvious.
After all, it was William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. If you think it is a worthy story, then present it well. Keep the integrity of the story and the moods.
If you are opposed to the story, and think it unworthy of being shown for this reason or that, then don’t show it. Lay it aside. Don’t distort it and present your own version.
Find another Shakespearian play to present or find another tale altogether. Run it at the Fringe. Let the main character be a humble and selfless Jewish man and his family. (It’ll be set in the 8th century B.C. but the critic will say it’s a Christian story.) Express your own views through your own characters.
Not up for the task? Then how about something simpler? Put together a short story. Write it this weekend and revise it over the course of a month. (You can do better than what is currently being served up for Canadian youth: pointless, disturbing and bleak.)
Still too much? Then how about a poem? Free verse – irregular lines and irregular beat. Barely any punctuation; won’t it be neat?
Say what you think. Make it real and make it your own. Don’t be afraid.
If you want to write, write.
Ignore the lies that say what you write won’t be any good. Begin. Once you’re done, ignore the lies that say what you have written isn’t any good. Such lies are inevitable. You needn’t write for anyone beyond yourself. Write because you want to record what you felt or thought.
Don’t worry about your audience. Sharing is a secondary consideration, always. It is commonly said that the first consideration is your audience, but this can be dangerous and distracting. If you begin with “what do people want me to write?” then you will wind up somewhere bland or weird. Your voice is unique, and to be original, you must think of yourself as the main audience for your writing.
Write as you feel led
Do your best.
Pray it’s good and
Hope that nobody will
Rewrite what you’ve said.