The Princess Bride: Book Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will look at ''The Princess Bride'', described as: 'Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles.'

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is a 1973 novel by William Goldman that uses an interesting literary device of an unconventional storytelling method, in which Goldman creates fictional author S. Morgenstern to write the original story. Goldman claims to be abridging the 'good parts version' on behalf of his son who could not get past the boring parts. Let's look at The Princess Bride chapter by chapter to create a summary, highlighting a few of the many noteworthy quotes.

The Bride

In this chapter, we meet Buttercup and her beloved Farm Boy, whom she doesn't know is named Westley. She is characterized as a bit dim and very beautiful. Westley only ever responds to her endless commands with 'As you wish.'

'There have been five great kisses since 1643 b.c. when Saul and Delilah Korn's inadvertent discovery swept across Western civilization. (Before then couples hooked thumbs.)... Well, this one left them all behind.'

They profess their love for each other, and Westley leaves to seek his fortune in America, while Buttercup awaits his return by working to improve herself until she becomes the most beautiful woman in the land.

Soon after departing, Buttercup's parents tell her that Westley was killed by the legendary Dread Pirate Roberts, who never takes prisoners alive.

The Groom

This chapter provides a brief introduction to the antagonist of the story. He is truly brutish and is described as a ferocious hunter. He takes sidesteps like a crab and has an intimidating stature.

'Prince Humperdinck was shaped like a barrel. His chest was a great barrel chest, his thighs mighty barrel thighs. He was not tall but he weighed close to 250 pounds, brick hard.'

Another way this story highlights Humperdinck as the villain is by describing his evil lair. The 'Zoo of Death' is a five-level torture chamber. His advisor Count Rugen informs him that the king's death is imminent and he will soon need to take a wife.

The Courtship

This chapter succinctly illustrates Humperdinck's brutish nature as well as the depth of Buttercup's grief. When he sees Buttercup for the first time, he approaches her and they have the following exchange:

'I am your Prince and you will marry me' Humperdinck said.

Buttercup whispered, 'I am your servant and I refuse.'

'I am your Prince and you cannot refuse'

'I am your loyal servant and I just did.'

'Refusal means death.'

'Kill me then.'

The Preparations

This entire chapter is one of the many asides in which Goldman provides 'abridgement' to Morgenstern's version. Goldman explains these asides were handy ways to fill in story gaps and create a backstory without actually having to write one. Morgenstern's version of this 2 page chapter would have included over 100 boring pages of royal wedding protocols on turning a commoner into a princess.

The Announcement

This long chapter reveals a plot to kidnap Princess Buttercup and introduces us to the kidnappers, Inigo the Spaniard, Fezzik the Giant and Vizzini the Sicilian. We also discover that a mysterious man in black, we later learn is the Dread Pirate Roberts, is following the kidnappers.

'He'll never catch up!' the Sicilian cried. 'Inconceivable!'

'You keep using that word!' the Spaniard snapped. 'I don't think it means what you think it does.'

This man in black soon catches up with them one by one, killing Vizzini and rescuing Buttercup, who learns that Westley wasn't killed by Roberts; he actually became Roberts after the previous one retired and passed on the fearsome title. She figured out he was her Farm Boy when he shouts 'As... you... wish' after she pushes him into a ravine.

By this time, the prince is hot on their tail, and they hide in the treacherous Fire Swamp. When Humperdinck catches them on the other side, Buttercup surrenders to him with the promise to keep Westley alive and return him to his ship. 'We are both men of action,' Westley replies. 'Lies do not become us.'

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