Study Guide

The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

The Princess Bride Summary

Extended Summary

The Princess Bride is a 1973 adventure story by William Goldman. Goldman presents his novel as if it were a shortened version of a classic book by S. Morgenstern, a writer from the imaginary country of Florin. Goldman uses the façade of an original work as an excuse to make commentary on the style and action throughout the book.

In the introduction, Goldman claims he has had a lifelong relationship with the story A Princess Bride. He says that he was a late bloomer who could barely read until the age of ten, when his father, an immigrant from Florin, read him the novel while he was recovering from pneumonia. Afterward, Goldman became addicted to adventure stories and grew up to become a writer. As an adult, Goldman tried to read The Princess Bride himself and realized that his father had skipped over substantial boring parts. This inspired him to create an abridgment.

The main story of The Princess Bride begins with Buttercup, a girl who is so beautiful that people come from all around to see her. Buttercup thinks very little about them—largely because she is a rather dimwitted girl who has very few thoughts on any subject. If the young men get annoying, she asks the farm boy, Westley, to get rid of them. He says, “As you wish,” and he beats up the other boys.

Eventually, Buttercup realizes that she is in love with Westley. When she tells him this, he immediately goes to America to seek his fortune so he can marry her. Before he leaves, he kisses her, and the kiss surpasses the greatness of all five of the highest-rated kisses since the invention of the kiss in 1642 B.C. Sadly, however, Westley’s ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is well known for killing his victims ruthlessly. Buttercup locks herself in her room for days to grieve. When she emerges, she is far and away the most beautiful girl alive. She says she will never again fall in love.

Prince Humperdinck, the leader of Florin, is a great hunter whose main interest is keeping and maintaining a Zoo of Death full of animals he can release and hunt. One day he is in his zoo when the doctor comes and tells him his father is dying. “Drat!” says Prince Humperdinck. “That means I shall have to get married.”

Prince Humperdinck refuses to marry Noreena, the princess of Guilder, because she is bald. Count Rugen, Prince Humperdinck’s only confidant, suggests marrying a commoner who is renowned for beauty. Rugen finds Buttercup, and Humperdinck agrees that she is stunning. She refuses to marry him, even under threat of death, until Humperdinck tells her he does not care whether or not she loves him.

Several years later, Buttercup is introduced to the people of Florin, and Humperdinck announces that they will be married. Afterward, Buttercup goes for a ride to ponder, in her dimwitted mind, the fact that she dislikes the prince. She is on her way home when she encounters three travelers: a Sicilian, a Spaniard, and a giant Turk. The Sicilian knocks her out, then frames people from Guilder as her kidnappers. He tells his companions that they are going to take Buttercup to Guilder and kill her in order to start a war.

In the boat on the way to Guilder, Buttercup jumps overboard and attempts to get away, but the Sicilian, Vizzini, manages to recapture her. However, he and his companions soon notice that they are being followed by a man dressed in black who surprises them with his strength and resilience. Vizzini takes Buttercup and the giant ahead, and he leaves the Spaniard, Inigo, to fight their pursuer.

At this point, the story flashes back in time to Inigo’s childhood with his father, Domingo, a sword maker. When Inigo was a little boy, Domingo made a beautiful sword for a nobleman with six fingers, but the nobleman killed Domingo in an argument over the sword’s price. Inigo swore he would get revenge, and he spent ten years building his strength and studying swordplay. Now he believes himself to be the greatest swordsman in the world, but he cannot find the six-fingered man. He...

(The entire section is 1672 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear