What is one significant scene or incident from a play that is essential to the revelation of character, the advancement of plot or the expression of theme?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One play which contains a most significant scene that astonishingly reveals the values of a character is Henrik Ibsen's A Doll House. In this drama, set in the Victorian Age, the main character, Nora Helmer, whose husband is married to a prestigious lawyer, is repressed in her patriarchal home as her husband assumes that she cannot manage money or be self-sufficient. Calling her his "little songbird" and "pouty squirrel," he dictates her conduct, forbidding her even to eat macaroons because the sugar is bad for her teeth.

However, it is because of Nora's managing to obtain a sizeable loan that Trovald is even alive. For, after he has ruined his health from overwork, Nora secretly secures enough money so that they can go to Italy for a year where he can recover.  But, her secret becomes known to Trovald because the man who loaned her the money is fired from his position by Helmer himself. This man, named Nils Krogstad, attempts to blackmail Nora so that he can retain his position.  In the desperate hope that Trovald will rehire him, he writes a letter which reveals his loan to Nora, a loan on which she has forged her father's signature.  Unfortunately for Nora, she is unable to retrieve the letter before it reaches Trovald. And, once he has read this letter which reveals Nora's forgery, he castigates his wife,

"....You have inherited every one of your father's loose principles.  No religion, no morals, no sense of duty--Now I am being punished for my leniency with him. I did it for your sake, and this is how you pay me back....You have ruined all my happiness. My whole future--that's what you have destroyed....To go down so miserably, to be destroyed--all this because of an irresponsible woman!"

Never once in his castigation does Trovald express any gratitude for Nora's having saved his life and his health; never once does he express his gratitude for her resourcefulness, her deep love that has driven her to endanger her reputation and safety in order to procure the trip to Italy for his health.

Clearly, this incident from Act III of A Doll's House reveals the callous, egotistical self-centeredness of the character of Trovald Helmer. In fact, his words are the catalyst for Nora's departure from the home. For, when she tells him that she is leaving, he attempts to explain that he will gladly work nights and endure sorrow, but "nobody sacrifices his honor for his love." Yet. this is exactly what Nora has done by forging her father's name on the loan for the money to travel to Italy in order to save her husband.