Parents are inclined to believe that a child’s failure in exams condemns him or her to a life of poverty and frustration. They might console themselves with the case of Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the great Norwegian playwright. He took the entrance exams to medical school while working as an apothecary’s apprentice—but failed them. Would we have heard of him had he passed? This is the very question that is often asked of Hitler and the Viennese art academy.
One of Ibsen’s first champions in Britain, George Bernard Shaw, who wrote the book The Quintessence of Ibsenism in 1891, took the same view of the germ theory of disease as Dr Stockmann’s father in law until his dying day, but then he was also a much lesser playwright than Ibsen.