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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Caryl Churchill’s play Serious Money, which premiered in 1987, is a satirical response to the deregulation of financial markets in the 1980s. This was an economic approach, spearheaded by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, that became known broadly as free market economics. This new economic approach prioritized individualism before social responsibility and selfishness before altruism. Indeed, Margaret Thatcher once infamously declared that “there’s no such thing as society.” In Serious Money, Churchill satirizes this new economic and ideological approach.

I lose every quarter
The cash goes like water
Is better to close the mine.
I choose very well
The moment to sell

Jacinta Condor shows a conspicuous lack of concern for the workers at her copper mine, who are set to lose their jobs when the mine closes. Her priority is very clearly her own financial status. The rhyming couplets in this quotation may appear peculiar, but they are effective in conveying Jacinta's lack of concern. Indeed, the rhyming couplets in conjunction with the bouncy, nearly nursery-rhyme quality of the meter suggest a light and playful tone at odds with the serious consequences of the closure she is talking about. This is a stylistic conceit that Churchill employs throughout the play.

They should have had the concerts in Zaire
And shipped the money to banks over here.

Jake Todd is referring to the 1985 Live Aid benefit concerts, which were held to raise money in aid of Ethiopians who were at that time living through a devastating famine. The day after the concerts, estimates of how much money had been raised put the figure somewhere between £40 million and £50 million. Here, Jack suggests that the concerts should have been held in Africa and the money sent to the banks in England. This of course suggests a deeply insensitive, merciless, and selfish attitude. Jake, who is a personification of the new, free market ideology, is concerned only with his own wealth and would happily take money from those in need in order to boost his own bank balance.

One thing one learned from one's colonial masters,
One makes money from other people's disasters.

Nigel Ajibala, an unscrupulous Ghanaian businessman, alludes to the cyclical, cynical, exploitative nature of the new, individualistic, money-first ideology. He says that he has learned that one must make a profit from “other people’s disasters,” and he implies that he has learned this from British colonialism. (Ghana was a colony within the British empire up until 1957.) The repetition of the word “one” in this quotation also indicates the egoism and selfishness of this individualistic, money-first ideology.

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