The Merchant of Venice does portray a prejudiced message. This is first evident in Act one when Shylock openly says to himself, "I hate him because he is a Christian....May my people be cursed if I forgive him!" All throughout the book the Christians are battling with the Jews and neither of them will listen to the other because their hearts are filled with intense prejudice. Antonio proves that he is unwilling to change his feelings toward Shylock when he says, "I'm likely to call you names again, spit on you again, and shun you again." They don't seem to realize that their prejudiced attitudes could get someone (Antonio) killed. There are different times during the play that Shylock could be viewed as a villain and other times that he could be seen as a sympathetic character. When he doesn't allow his daughter, Jessica to marry Lorenzo just because he's a Christian, that's when we start to think that Shylock just isn't a very nice guy. But he was also the target of a lot of prejudice himself. Antonio didn't like him because he was a Jew, and he let Shylock know his feelings. However, two wrongs don't make a right. In other words, just because Antonio hated Shylock and spit in his face, there's no reason why Shylock couldn't just show Antonio love or just stay away from him. Shylock chose to get revenge, so he probably would be viewed as a villain.
Prejudice doesn't get anyone anywhere. This is probably the strongest message of the play. Antonio's prejudice against Shylock almost got him killed, and Shylock's prejudice against Antonio converted him to Christianity and robbed him of all his possessions. If there's anything that we can learn from this play, it would be to just get along with everybody and don't think that you are any better than anyone else.