The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

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What is the depiction of culture and climate in The Princess Bride?

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In William Goldman's The Princess Bride, we have a European Renaissance-era city-state of Florin, a monarchy ruled by Prince Humperdink.  It is a largely agrarian, feudal system economy with a stratified social class system.  There is the king on top, followed by nobles and military advisers.  Near the bottom are peasants, pirates, and other such underclassmen (an albino torturer).  Even below that are creatures who live in the fireswamp, ROUSes (Rodents of Unusual Size).

Within the novel there are divisions in the relationships.  Buttercup is clearly in a higher social class than the servant Westley.  As far as the bandits, the Sicilian Vizzinni is a leader among the others, the Turkish wrestler Fizzik and the Spanish drunk Inigo.  It is important to note that the protagonists, Buttercup and Westley significantly jump social classes.  Buttercup moves up to the status of Princess, while Westley becomes an outcast pirate, ironically to free himself from serfdom.  The others stay in the very regimented society.

No doubt Prince Humperdinck chooses Buttercup, a commoner, to become his queen because he will need the commoners' support in the impeding war he will be waging with Guilder (he will blame her death on their assassins).

The overall climate is a mix of fantasy/romance/fairy tale (good vs. evil) and comedy (parody of swashbuckling).  The climate is largely ironic: after all, it's a parody of the children's fairy tale genre.  As such, it has a fairy tale plot line with an adult sense of dialogue, verbal and situational irony.

Even the frame story has some cultural division in that we have a sick kid being read to by a grandfather.  Their is an age gap between the two: one plays video games and the other loves books.  In the end, both appreciate the anachronistic but timeless tale.

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