(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Churchill’s central intent in Serious Money is to satirize the world of the City, which may be seen as a microcosm of capitalistic society in the late twentieth century. She is concerned about the emphasis on the egoistic needs of the individual, which are satisfied at the expense of the common good. In this world, choices are made as a response to fear and greed. The considerable energy and intelligence of the traders is misplaced; they strive for personal success, but even when they achieve it, they are as much oppressed by the system as are its more obvious victims.

Churchill’s use of verse dialogue conveys this, the rigid form restricting the actors, channeling their energy in the same way that the market restricts and channels the traders. The use of prose interludes (for example, Frosby’s confession to the audience that, as he is about to get his revenge on Jake, he is frightened; Jake’s admission to Scilla that he is in trouble with the DTI) heighten the effect of the verse. More than one critic credits the verse with augmenting the driving pace of the play, which is suitable for representing the hectic life of the City.

Churchill wants the audience to observe this world but not to sympathize with it or with the characters in it. To accomplish this distancing, she turns to a variety of devices associated with the alienation effect of German playwright Bertolt Brecht. Her characters are two-dimensional and neither demonstrate nor elicit empathy. They do not listen to one another; dialogue often overlaps, and in the hunt scene, aristocrats repeat phrases that have no meaning in the current context.

This effect is strongest in the reaction to Jake’s death. His contacts are concerned about what he might have revealed, but they see his death as no obstacle to continuing business as usual, taking the same risks that have led to Jake’s death. Scilla’s concern that Jake has been murdered seems at first to indicate that she has some feeling for her brother, but as soon as she learns about his “serious money,” greed becomes her sole motivation.

The structure of the play is...

(The entire section is 875 words.)