The Princess Bride

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for The Princess Bride. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Note: The Princess Bride contains an inner story about Westley and Buttercup, which is the main story, and an outer story where the Grandfather reads the inner story to his grandson. Both are part of the same narrative structure, and although the inner story has more detail, all four throughlines are reflected in the outer story as well. The Grandfather sharing the Influence Character role with Westley is reinforced by the final line of the film:

THE KID: Maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.
GRANDFATHER: As you wish...

This is part of the reason The Princess Bride works so well structurally. Basically, the MC of the outer story has the same worldview as the MC of the inner story, which is like how the Audience sees things through the lens of the MC's perspective in _all_ stories. So the Kid as the Audience of the inner story reinforces the narrative as a whole. (the same thing happens in The Usual Suspects: the one being told the inner story is the outer story's MC)

Story Analysis: Mike Lucas

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Change
Main Character Resolve

Forced to re-evaluate her circumstances, Buttercup finally stops doubting and embraces the idea that nothing can stop true love.

The Kid stops doubting the story, and embraces its romantic nature.

Stop
Main Character Growth

Buttercup needs to learn to stop accepting the initial most-likely evaluation of her circumstances. (e.g. just because your love was lost as sea doesn’t mean he is dead; just because he admits to being the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t mean he killed your love and deserves to be pushed down the hill; just because the Prince promises to save your love doesn’t mean he will keep his word…) She also needs to stop doubting the power of true love.

The Kid needs to stop being so pessimistic about the story and its romantic parts.

Be-er
Main Character Approach

Buttercup prefers to change herself to solve her personal problems, accepting Westley’s death and grieving to get through it, contemplating suicide but hesitating, etc. (She doesn’t really “do” anything on her own, except at the very end when she makes Humperdink’s ropes tight enough to make him wince. When she jumps into the eel-infested waters, it is not something she preferred to do.)

Linear
Main Character Mental Sex

Buttercup tries to solve problems logically, e.g. she uses logic to bargain with the Man In Black (before she realizes it’s Westley):

BUTTERCUP: If you’ll release me ... whatever you ask for ransom ... you’ll get it, I promise you…


She similarly uses linear thinking to bargain for Westley’s life with Humperdink:

BUTTERCUP: If we surrender, and I return with you, will you promise not to hurt this man?

Action
Story Driver

In The Princess Bride, actions drive the plot and force decisions. Some examples:

* Westley’s ship is attacked (forcing everyone to presume him dead);
* Buttercup is kidnapped;
* Inigo spots a ship following (*Inconceivable!*);
* The Man in Black climbs the Cliffs of Insanity quite well, forcing the kidnappers to decide to cut the rope;
* The Man in Black doesn’t fall even when the rope is cut, forcing the kidnappers to split up;
* The Man in Black defeats Inigo and Fezzik, forcing Vizzini to accept a duel of wits;
* Buttercup pushes Westley down into the ravine, uncovering his true identity and forcing her quick decision to tumble down too;
* Humperdink’s arrival forces Buttercup and Westley to choose to enter the Fire Swamp;
* Buttercup goes on a tirade, making Humperdink decide to cause Westley the ultimate suffering;
* Inigo’s sword discovers where Westley is hidden, and they discover that Westley was (mostly) killed by the Machine, forcing them to decide to go to Miracle Max;
* the discovery that Westley is Buttercup’s true love forces Miracle Max to decide to help

Optionlock
Story Limit

There are only so many ways to stop Humperdink’s plotting.*Note there was an inner Timelock of the wedding date: “ten days to the wedding” and “the prince is marrying your true love in a little less than half an hour.” This may have helped keep male audiences interested, but it wasn’t a true Timelock because a) Humperdink “skipped to the end” past it, and b) the story kept going even after the wedding.*

For the outer story, there is only so much ‘space’ (pages) in the book available to convince the boy about romance.

Success
Story Outcome

They rescue Buttercup, preventing the kingdom from conceiving that they need to go to war with Guilder. Plus: Inigo avenges his father, getting the six-fingered man to conceive that he was wrong; Fezzik conceives that he can do things right; the grandfather is successful in getting the grandson conceive that this was a great story and might even like the kissy parts.

Good
Story Judgment

Buttercup and Westley are reunited to live happily every after, and all the characters except Humperdink and the Six-Fingered Man are happy in the end.

Overall Story Throughline

"The Plot to Murder the Princess Bride"

Psychology
Overall Story Throughline

* Through his evil scheme that involves killing Buttercup, Prince Humperdink tries to manipulate everyone into thinking that Guilder is responsible: “I’ve got my country’s five hundredth anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I’m swamped.”
* The grandfather attempts to convince his grandson to like the book, or at at least give it a chance.

Conceiving
Overall Story Concern

* The point of Humperdink’s plot is to get the people of Florin to conceive that Guilder is their enemy.
*  The grandfather wants the boy to conceive of the romantic “kissing” parts of the story as worth reading.
* Inigo’s plan for vengeance is to ensure Count Rugen (aka the Six-Fingered Man) gets the idea that he was wrong to kill his father.
* Vizzini encounters conflict in the area of thinking things are “Inconceivable!”:

INIGO: You keep using that word—I do not think it means what you think it means.

Deficiency
Overall Story Issue

All the overall characters demonstrate the issue of Deficiency through their inadequacies:

* Vizzini constantly derides Fezzik for being stupid. He even derides him for not climbing faster than the man in black, for being inadequate for the job he was hired for — despite the fact that he’s carrying three extra people.
* Deprived of her true love, the princess bride “will never love again”
* Fezzik and Inigo are not adequate to hatching a plan on their own, they need the man in black
* Humperdink is heartless. He is also revealed to be “nothing but a coward with a face full of fear”.
* Afraid of being deprived of her true love again, the princess bride makes a deal to save him
* The IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN and his speech impediment! “Mawidge…mawidge is what bwings us togewer today…”(*)
* The grandson is romantically deficient; he’s interested only in sports and fighting and utterly lacks interest in anything romantic in the story

(*) ...although this illustration may seem only humorous, there is true conflict coming from Deficiency here. The clergyman’s speech impediment is contributing to the pressure cooker that Humperdink suddenly finds himself in, with the sounds of fighting at the gate, and the wedding ceremony seems to be taking forever. This leads Humperdink to “skip to the end”, which makes the marriage legally deficient—because they skipped saying “I do” (Permission counterpoint)

Permission
Overall Story Counterpoint

The counterpoint of Permission can be seen humorously when Fezzik and Inigo play their “rhyming game” against Vizzini’s direct orders. It is also shown when Humperdink skips the part of the wedding where Buttercup must give her permission by saying “I do”. And Westley uses this fact to get her to conceive that she didn’t marry the prince after all.

Also, in the outer story of the grandfather and boy, the grandfather has to gain the boy’s permission to even read the book, and for a long time the boy withholds permission to read the romantic “kissing” parts.

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Deficiency vs.Permission


Evaluation
Overall Story Problem

In the overall story of *The Princess Bride*, problems occur when people evaluate their situation or circumstances. Usually it’s because their evaluations are wrong, but sometimes even accurate evaluations cause trouble.

* The boy evaluates the book based on its title and romance moments, thinking he won’t like it. Even after he starts liking it, he still holds onto his evaluation about the “kissing” being lame, until the end.
* The people of Florin rate Prince Humperdink too highly because of the radiant beauty and goodness of his princess bride, allowing that to colour their assessment of him.
* Vizzini constantly analyses the man in black’s pursuit poorly. First he’s just a fisherman in eel infested waters, then he will be stopped by the Cliffs of Insanity, then he will be thrown off with the rope, then he will be stopped by his fighters, then he will not stand a chance in the duel of wits ...
* Buttercup assesses Westley’s chances of surviving as poor, and evaluates (poorly) that he will stand a better chance if she makes a deal and surrenders.
* The Machine is used to evaluate how much pain people can stand. Westley makes a poor evaluation that he can withstand it.
* Westley’s accurate examination / analysis of Count Rugen’s hand gets him hit over the head.
* Humperdink’s excellent tracking (a type of evaluation) causes trouble for Buttercup and Westley
* When Inigo is hit by Count Rugen’s thrown dagger, he assesses the situation: he has been defeated.
* Humperdink’s correct assessment that Westley cannot move appears to spell the end for the rescue attempt….

Reevaluation
Overall Story Solution

* The boy slowly re-evaluates the book as he grows to love the story, eventually re-evaluating his stance on the story’s romantic parts:

GRANDFATHER: No, it’s kissing again. You don’t want to hear it.
THE KID: I don’t mind so much. (He gestures for his Grandfather to read.)

* Through his incredible bluff of “The Pain” punishment, Westley forces Humperdink to re-evaluate his situation and surrender in fear.
  * Note that Humperdink’s re-evaluation here was actually set in motion earlier by Buttercup when she called him *“nothing but a coward with a face full of fear”*. By solving her own personal issue and re-evaluating, she set in motion this re-evaluation in the overall story (the crucial element in action).
* After being hit with the dagger and initially assessing that he has lost, Inigo begins to re-evaluate his physical condition. This re-evaluation allows him to continue — “good heavens, are you still trying to win?” — and the more he is able to continue, the more he re-evaluates and gets Count Rugen to re-evaluate. Then Rugen causes himself more trouble by assessing that he can bribe Inigo into sparing him, and Inigo forces him to re-evaluate that as he kills him: “I want my father back you son of a bitch!”
* Fezzik gets everyone to re-evaluate his intelligence when he gathers 4 white horses at the end. “Fezzik, you did something right for a change.” “Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head!”
* At the very end, Inigo must re-evaluate his life, now that he is no longer in the revenge business. This allows Westley to suggest the perfect new career as a Dread Pirate Roberts.
* Miracle Max is initially against helping, but is forced to re-evaluate the situation when he learns that the dead man is Buttercup’s true love, and might make Humperdink suffer.

Probability
Overall Story Symptom

(These examples combine both Symptom & Response)

When Inigo is waiting for the Man In Black to climb up, they try to find a way for him to trust Inigo’s lowering of a rope.

INIGO: But I do not think that you will accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.

Driven by that Evaluation, they both see the problem as the *likely action* that Inigo would take. The Man In Black knows that Inigo will *probably* just cut the rope again, he’s done it before. But they both try to find a way for him to *possibily* trust him:

INIGO : You don’t know any way you’ll trust me?
MAN IN BLACK: Nothing comes to mind.
...
INIGO: I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya, you will reach the top alive.
MAN IN BLACK: Throw me the rope.


Faced with the likelihood they will never find the Man in Black in time, Inigo conceives the possibility that his dead father can help:

INIGO: Father, I have failed you for twenty years. Now our misery can end. Somewhere ... somewhere close by is a man who can help us. I cannot find him alone. I need you. I need you to guide my sword. Please.


Faced with the likelihood that they have lost, Inigo and Fezzik place their hopes in the possibility that Miracle Max can save the Man In Black.
When it looks like Max probably won’t help them, Inigo makes him consider the possibility that healing Westley will cause Humperdink to suffer.
Once the cure is ready, everyone knows that it probably won’t work, so they resort to hoping for a miracle:

VALERIE (to Max): Think it’ll work?
MIRACLE MAX: It would take a miracle. Bye!


Fezzik and Inigo seem to be over-estimating their chance of success at breaking into the castle guarded by sixty men with nothing but “your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel.” Westley responds by saying it’s impossible:

WESTLEY:** **That’s it? Impossible. If I had a month to plan, maybe I could come up with something. But this…

Possibility
Overall Story Response

(These examples combine both Symptom & Response)

When Inigo is waiting for the Man In Black to climb up, they try to find a way for him to trust Inigo’s lowering of a rope.

INIGO: But I do not think that you will accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you.

Driven by that Evaluation, they both see the problem as the *likely action* that Inigo would take. The Man In Black knows that Inigo will *probably* just cut the rope again, he’s done it before. But they both try to find a way for him to *possibily* trust him:

INIGO : You don’t know any way you’ll trust me?
MAN IN BLACK: Nothing comes to mind.
...
INIGO: I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya, you will reach the top alive.
MAN IN BLACK: Throw me the rope.


Faced with the likelihood they will never find the Man in Black in time, Inigo conceives the possibility that his dead father can help:

INIGO: Father, I have failed you for twenty years. Now our misery can end. Somewhere ... somewhere close by is a man who can help us. I cannot find him alone. I need you. I need you to guide my sword. Please.


Faced with the likelihood that they have lost, Inigo and Fezzik place their hopes in the possibility that Miracle Max can save the Man In Black.
When it looks like Max probably won’t help them, Inigo makes him consider the possibility that healing Westley will cause Humperdink to suffer.
Once the cure is ready, everyone knows that it probably won’t work, so they resort to hoping for a miracle:

VALERIE (to Max): Think it’ll work?
MIRACLE MAX: It would take a miracle. Bye!


Fezzik and Inigo seem to be over-estimating their chance of success at breaking into the castle guarded by sixty men with nothing but “your brains, Fezzik’s strength, my steel.” Westley responds by saying it’s impossible:

WESTLEY:** **That’s it? Impossible. If I had a month to plan, maybe I could come up with something. But this…

Expediency
Overall Story Catalyst

* Whenever the boy gets the grandfather to skip past parts he doesn’t like, it expedites the actual story too.
* When Inigo conveniently throws the Man in Black the rope, it speeds up the plot and brings on the three duels.
* When Prince Humperdink expedites Westley’s pain-testing all the way (*“Not to fifty!”*), the resulting scream allows Inigo and Fezzik a way of finding the Man in Black, whom they need to assault the castle.
* When Prince Humperdink conveniently “skips to the end” to expedite the wedding, it brings on the story’s final confrontation.

Strategy
Overall Story Inhibitor

The pace of the story slows down when characters take time to learn, plan, or showcase their strategy. For example, when Vizzini takes the time to explain — at length — his strategy for winning the duel of wits. Or when Inigo, Fezziki and Westley look upon the castle gate and discuss their plan of attack.

Being
Overall Story Benchmark

The overall story’s progress can be measured by how some characters are able to cast off the roles they were playing, while others are forced to pretend more:

* Once Buttercup finds out who he is, Westley can stop pretending to be the Man in Black
* Inigo goes from the role of hired cut-throat, to drunk, to being Inigo (“*Hallo! My name is Inigo Montoya!*”) in seeking vengeance for his father
* Buttercup eventually casts off the role of Princess Bride
* Humperdink has to pretend more and more that he has been honouring his promises to Buttercup
* The Kid starts off fully entrenched in his role of ‘boys like sports and fighting, not kissing’, then gradually casts that aside.

Additional Overall Story Information →

Main Character Throughline

Buttercup/the Kid

Mind
Main Character Throughline

Buttercup’s biggest personal issue is her fear of her true love Westley’s death, first shown near the beginning of the film:

BUTTERCUP: I fear I’ll never see you again.

And later, when she makes the deal with Humperdink:

BUTTERCUP: I thought you were dead once, and it almost destroyed me. I could not bear it if you died again.

She seems to have made up her mind that Westley’s death is the worst thing possible, and that she must avoid it no matter how much suffering it brings her.

The Kid has made up his mind that he doesn’t like romance and kissing in his stories.

Conscious
Main Character Concern

Hearing Westley’s ship was attacked at sea, rather than trying to find out more, she shuts herself in her room and doesn’t eat or sleep for days, contemplating that she “will never love again”.

Buttercup contemplates suicide more than once, first telling Humperdink that she will kill herself if she must marry him, and later after the wedding. When she goes to kill herself in the honeymoon suite, she slowly examines the blade, ruminating over what she is doing.

The Kid refuses to even contemplate the romance in the book, getting the Grandfather to skip over the kissing.

Doubt
Main Character Issue

Buttercup’s personal issues are wrapped up in her constant doubting. She doubts Westley’s affections, making him prove himself. When he leaves to make money for marriage, she doubts his assertions that he will return:

BUTTERCUP: But what if something happens to you?
WESTLEY: Hear this now: I will come for you.
BUTTERCUP: But how can you be sure?

When they are surrounded by Humperdink’s men outside the Fire Swamp, she doubts that they will be able to make it out alive, and ends up making a deal that causes her and Westley both terrible suffering.

Also: The Kid questions the validity of the book’s romantic parts without even sampling (investigating) them.

Investigation
Main Character Counterpoint

She fails to investigate Westley’s death at sea:

BUTTERCUP: On the high seas your ship attacked, and the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners.

When she starts to investigate the validity of Humperdink’s promises, she starts to see the truth, allowing her to re-evaluate her incorrect assumptions.

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Doubt vs.Investigation


Evaluation
Main Character Problem

The root of Buttercup’s personal problems is her tendency to evaluate her circumstances and stick with that evaluation, even though it’s often incorrect. Examples:

* Incorrectly assuming Westley is dead.
* Appraising she is safe from the kidnappers when they approach her.
* Assuming Humperdink will keep his word and not harm Westley, believing he will send his 4 fastest ships as promised, believing there is no hope once she’s married Humperdink.
* Assuming that everything is over once the priest says “man and wife”. Her evaluation here is that because Westley didn’t stop the wedding on time (“He didn’t come”), her circumstances are so utterly hopeless that she contemplates suicide: “I’m killing myself once we reach the Honeymoon Suite.”

The Kid initially evaluates the book based on the kissing and romantic parts.

Reevaluation
Main Character Solution

Buttercup starts to re-evaluate things after her dream of being booed by the repulsive woman (see Influence Character Unique Ability). At that point she confronts Humperdink, but doesn’t go all the way to embracing her solution because she continues to incorrectly assesses his honesty to contact Westley with his four fastest ships.

When she re-evaluates the circumstances to realize Humperdink is lying, she makes peace with her personal issues; she no longer doubts herself or Westley:

BUTTERCUP: You never sent the ships. Don’t bother lying. It doesn’t matter. Westley will come for me anyway.
HUMPERDINCK: You’re a silly girl.
BUTTERCUP: Yes, I am a silly girl, for not having seen sooner that you were nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear.
HUMPERDINCK: I-would-not-say-such things-if-I-were-you-
BUTTERCUP: Why not? You can’t hurt me. Westley and I are joined by the bonds of love. And you cannot track that. Not with a thousand bloodhounds. And you cannot break it. Not with a thousand swords. And when I say you are a coward, that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.

After the above re-evaluation, she is peaceful:

BUTTERCUP: I do not marry tonight. My Westley will save me.

Also: The Kid re-evaluates his stance on romance:

GRANDFATHER: No, it’s kissing again. You don’t want to hear it.
THE KID: I don’t mind so much.

Note that the Kid’s final re-evaluation is what cements the Main Character Resolve in this story. Near the end of the film Buttercup was still waffling (about to kill herself), and doesn’t say or do anything after that to indicate she has truly stopped doubting. But she doesn’t have to because the Kid has stopped doubting, and they share the same throughline. So we are not left wondering about Buttercup’s resolve; the Kid answers that question for us.

Reduction
Main Character Symptom

(These examples contain both Symptom & Response)

When she and Westley are captured leaving the Fire Swamp, she narrows down the possibilities for Westley to survive…and driven by her evaluation of his grim situation, she responds by producing another option: “Will you promise not to hurt him?”

At the beginning of the story, faced with Westley reducing her to an object of affection, she makes a big production out of getting Westley to prove his love for her. Getting him to do all sorts of silly favours: “Farm boy, hand me that water pitcher…”

When the Man in Black yells “as you wish” as he falls down the hill, she reduces all the possibilities for his identity down to one. Realizing she has reduced her sweet Westley to a crumpled heap, she responds by making a big production of falling down after him, producing herself at his side.

Thinking that the wedding has reduced her to Humperdink’s bride, she makes a mountain out of a molehill and goes to commit suicide. She makes a kind of production out of it too, examining the blade, holding it just so against her breast…

Whenever romantic parts come up, the Kid thinks the story has been reduced to nothing but a romance novel, and responds by making a big production of how much he hates that stuff.

Production
Main Character Response

(These examples contain both Symptom & Response)

When she and Westley are captured leaving the Fire Swamp, she narrows down the possibilities for Westley to survive…and driven by her evaluation of his grim situation, she responds by producing another option: “Will you promise not to hurt him?”

At the beginning of the story, faced with Westley reducing her to an object of affection, she makes a big production out of getting Westley to prove his love for her. Getting him to do all sorts of silly favours: “Farm boy, hand me that water pitcher…”

When the Man in Black yells “as you wish” as he falls down the hill, she reduces all the possibilities for his identity down to one. Realizing she has reduced her sweet Westley to a crumpled heap, she responds by making a big production of falling down after him, producing herself at his side.

Thinking that the wedding has reduced her to Humperdink’s bride, she makes a mountain out of a molehill and goes to commit suicide. She makes a kind of production out of it too, examining the blade, holding it just so against her breast…

Also: Whenever romantic parts come up, the Kid thinks the story has been reduced to nothing but a romance novel, and responds by making a big production of how much he hates that stuff.

Reappraisal
Main Character Unique Ability

When the Man In Black yells “as you wish” as he falls down the ravine, Buttercup quickly reappraises him and jumps after him.
When Buttercup comes to check on things, Humperdink makes an error and forgets that his four fastest ships are supposed to be gone. Buttercup quickly reappraises things and realizes he’s lying, setting in motion the events that will bring Humperdink down. (In fact, this gets Humperdink to reconsider his keeping Westley alive and he goes to kill him, which gives Inigo and Fezzik a way to find him through his death scream.)

Attraction
Main Character Critical Flaw

Buttercup’s perfect beauty gets her into trouble; it’s what makes her the perfect target for the Prince’s plot, gives her the ability to elevate the Prince in the eyes of Florin, etc.

Westley is so upset by her being the object of another man’s desire that he almost gives up on her: “When you found out he was gone, did you get engaged to your prince that same hour, or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?”

Preconscious
Main Character Benchmark

Buttercup’s story and the resolution of her personal issues can be measured by her progress from reacting impulsively to becoming more calm in the face of trouble. She goes from jumping into eel-infested waters and spontaneously pushing the Man in Black down the hill, to having jarring dreams where she panics in front the ancient woman booing her, to finally being calm in the face of having to marry Humperdink.

Additional Main Character Information →

Influence Character Throughline

Westley/the Grandfather

Universe
Influence Character Throughline

Westley is stuck in the situation of being away from his true love. (Although they are together briefly in the Fire Swamp, they are still in danger at that point, on the run. So he is still in danger of being separated from her; his situation is not resolved.) This Situation takes all sorts of forms — seeming to be dead but in reality a prisoner of the Dread Pirate Roberts, being the new Dread Pirate Roberts, being the Man In Black who keeps his distance because she no longer appears to love him, being on the run in the Fire Swamp with her, being a prisoner of Count Rugen and his infernal Machine, being “mostly dead”, and finally having no strength due to his recent return from mostly-death.

The one thing all of these have in common is being away from his true love — and notice the problem is always being away *now*, in the present.

The Grandfather is stuck having to entertain his sick grandson, a kind of caregiver situation; and he impacts the boy’s own situation (being sick).

Present
Influence Character Concern

Westley is always focused on the present circumstances, and impacts others through this focus. He duels Fezzik, Inigo and Vezzini with full attention; he makes sure he and Buttercup are fully aware of things as they travel through the Fire Swamp, etc. He has to endure a lot of pain and torture, even death (mostly). He wants to be with Buttercup *now*.

The Grandfather is always focused on the current part of the story he is reading, which impacts the boy’s present circumstances too.

Attempt
Influence Character Issue

Westley is constantly attempting difficult things: climbing the cliffs, fighting Fezziki, fighting Inigo, duel-of-witsing Vezzini, crossing the Fire Swamp, etc. He’s pretty good at it, but it gets him into trouble nonetheless, and has huge impact on everyone involved. Attempting difficult things where the outcome is not assured is almost his motto:

BUTTERCUP: We’ll never survive.
WESTLEY: Nonsense—you’re only saying that because no one ever has.

He and Inigo both show his impact on Attempt in their sword-fight, when it is revealed that both of them began the fight left-handed when they were both right-handed. They both Attempted the more difficult, uncertain approach.

Westley illustrates the value of Attempt as his impact in this area pays off in the story. Inigo and Fezzik seek him out and get Miracle Max to resurrect him because of the impact the amazing feats he attempted had on them:

Then a wild look hits Inigo.
**INIGO:** No—not Vizzini—I need the Man in Black—
**FEZZIK: **—what?—
**INIGO:**—look, he bested you with strength, your greatness. He bested me with steel. He must have out-thought Vizzini, and a man who can do that can plan my castle’s onslaught any day.

Westley overcomes his issue in the end by Attempting what seems impossible — concluding his bluff to Prince Humperdink by successfully standing and appearing able to fight.

The Grandfather makes the difficult attempt of trying to get the boy to like the story.

Work
Influence Character Counterpoint

Here Westley speaks about the counterpoint of Work:

WESTLEY: I can’t afford to make exceptions. Once word leaks out that a pirate has gone soft, people begin to disobey you, and then it’s nothing but work, work, work, all the time.

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Attempt vs.Work


Reduction
Influence Character Problem

* Westley is driven by everyone *counting him out*: Fezziki, Inigo, Vezzini, Humperdink, Count Rugen, Buttercup.
* He takes on each of the three kidnappers one at a time.
* As a prisoner/pupil of Dread Pirate Roberts, he was subject to being culled: “Good night Westley, sleep tight, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
* Most of all, he is driven to believe that of all the possible types of love he and Buttercup share, theirs is true love.

The Grandfather is driven by the boy’s reducing the book to a romance novel.

Production
Influence Character Solution

Westley’s drive and motivation are sapped by the big “production” of The Machine. This huge monstrosity that produces pain is the thing he fears most, and it almost takes away his drive.

Probability
Influence Character Symptom

Faced with the likelihood of Vizzini killing Buttercup before he can stop him, and the likelihood of losing the duel of wits to someone with such a “dizzying intellect” ... he responds by making use of the fact that it’s *possible *in that game* *to poison both cups. (All of this driven by his Problem of Reduction: Vizzini counting him out, reducing him to a moron in the face of such a great thinker: *“you’re no match for my brains”*.)

And this is perfect: he’s Probably bluffing and Prince Humperdink knows it, yet he responds so well with Possibility that he makes the Prince drop his sword:

WESTLEY: It’s possible, pig – I might be bluffing – it’s conceivable, you miserable vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand – then again, perhaps I have the strength after all.

The possibility that Westley might be able to defeat him and invoke such a terrible punishment ends up outweighing the probability that he’s bluffing, and gets the Prince to re-evaluate. (Note: this is both OS and IC throughline, but I put the example here because it shows Westley’s personal issue of being counted out, Reduced to a weakling.)

The final part of that bluff, where he stands up convincingly, also shows him responding to the likelihood that he cannot stand — not to mention the likelihood that Humperdink won’t be convinced if he doesn’t — by taking a chance on the possibility that he can. Driven by Humperdink treating him as nothing but a weakling (Reduction), he turns that around and reduces Humperdink to a coward.

Possibility
Influence Character Response

Faced with the likelihood of Vizzini killing Buttercup before he can stop him, and the likelihood of losing the duel of wits to someone with such a “dizzying intellect” ... he responds by making use of the fact that it’s *possible *in that game* *to poison both cups. (All of this driven by his Problem of Reduction: Vizzini counting him out, reducing him to a moron in the face of such a great thinker: *“you’re no match for my brains”*.)

And this is perfect: he’s Probably bluffing and Prince Humperdink knows it, yet he responds so well with Possibility that he makes the Prince drop his sword:

WESTLEY: It’s possible, pig – I might be bluffing – it’s conceivable, you miserable vomitous mass, that I’m only lying here because I lack the strength to stand – then again, perhaps I have the strength after all.

The possibility that Westley might be able to defeat him and invoke such a terrible punishment ends up outweighing the probability that he’s bluffing, and gets the Prince to re-evaluate. (Note: this is both OS and IC throughline, but I put the example here because it shows Westley’s personal issue of being counted out, Reduced to a weakling.)

The final part of that bluff, where he stands up convincingly, also shows him responding to the likelihood that he cannot stand — not to mention the likelihood that Humperdink won’t be convinced if he doesn’t — by taking a chance on the possibility that he can. Driven by Humperdink treating him as nothing but a weakling (Reduction), he turns that around and reduces Humperdink to a coward.

Repulsion
Influence Character Unique Ability

His impact around Repulsion makes him uniquely qualified to force Buttercup to face her personal issues. She is repulsed by his Man In Black persona, especially when she names him as the Dread Pirate Roberts, who killed her love. This forces her to unearth her personal issues. He says mean things to her (“Life is pain, highness”), which push her away emotionally — and then the crux, **she pushes him away down the hill** which gets him to admit his true identity.

Later, her thoughts of Westley impact her again, forcing her to see how repulsive Prince Humperdink truly is. It is at the moment that she tells Humperdink how repulsive he is that she truly embraces her Main Character Solution of Re-Evaluation:

Yes, I am a silly girl, for not having seen sooner that you were nothing but a coward with a heart full of fear…
And when I say you are a coward, that is only because you are the slimiest weakling ever to crawl the earth.

Buttercup’s guilt at making the deal with Humperdink to spare Westley’s life gnaws at her. These are expressed in dreams full of Repulsion, where an ancient, repulsive woman calls her repulsive things: “the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence.” In fact, this dream sequence leads directly to her starting to embrace her Solution of Re-Evaluation, as she confronts Humperdink afterwards.

Appraisal
Influence Character Critical Flaw

Buttercup appraises that Humperdink will be able to track and rescue her from the Man In Black, and this shields her from his impact on her:

BUTTERCUP: I was giving you a chance. No matter where you take me ... there’s no greater hunter than Prince Humperdinck. He could track a falcon on a cloudy day. He can find you.

Where Westley is concerned, Buttercup often makes poor appraisals which end up dulling his impact on her. She thinks he died, she thinks he didn’t come for her at the wedding so she must commit suicide, etc.

Progress
Influence Character Benchmark

In relation to his impact on present circumstances, Westley’s measuring stick is various forms of progress: following and rescuing Buttercup as the Man in Black; their progress through the Fire Swamp and escaping Humperdink; the terrible progress of the Machine through its numbers 1-50; their progress through the Castle and his own progress at regaining his strength.

More Influence Character Information →

Relationship Story Throughline

"True Love"

Physics
Relationship Story Throughline

(These examples combine both Domain & Concern)

It’s tough when you might have that most special of relationships, True Love. You have a tendency to want to be certain about it — is it really true love? But you both need to *learn together* to put your doubts aside and embrace your relationship’s true potential, for only then will it really be true love.

So the relationship story is about a relationship with a constant need to be certain, afraid of uncertainty. Throughout the story the relationship is tested again and again through various events and activities that allow it to *learn *its potential:

* doing menial farm tasks as a way to prove one’s love, to learn about how deep that love lies
* the chase (man in black chasing princess), learning who the man in black really is
* travelling through the fire swamp together, learning (through activity & experience) how to overcome the dangers of the Fire Swamp; learning how it’s possible that Westley is still alive; learning that they can both rely on each other to see the other through danger

The Grandfather and the Kid strengthen their relationship through the activity of reading the book and learning its story. Through this, they learn the potential of their own relationship.

Learning
Relationship Story Concern

(These examples combine both Domain & Concern)

It’s tough when you might have that most special of relationships, True Love. You have a tendency to want to be certain about it — is it really true love? But you both need to *learn together* to put your doubts aside and embrace your relationship’s true potential, for only then will it really be true love.

So the relationship story is about a relationship with a constant need to be certain, afraid of uncertainty. Throughout the story the relationship is tested again and again through various events and activities that allow it to *learn *its potential:

* doing menial farm tasks as a way to prove one’s love, to learn about how deep that love lies
* the chase (man in black chasing princess), learning who the man in black really is
* travelling through the fire swamp together, learning (through activity & experience) how to overcome the dangers of the Fire Swamp; learning how it’s possible that Westley is still alive; learning that they can both rely on each other to see the other through danger

The Grandfather and the Kid strengthen their relationship through the activity of reading the book and learning its story. Through this, they learn the potential of their own relationship.

Preconditions
Relationship Story Issue

* At the beginning of the relationship, it imposed several preconditions that needed to be met in order to fall in love. The menial farm-boy tasks not only needed to be accomplished, they also needed to be met with easy “as you wish” assurance for the relationship to be satisfied.
* The next precondition to cause conflict in the relationship was Westley’s need to earn money for marriage: “*Westley had no money for marriage. So he packed his few belongings and left the farm to seek his fortune across the sea.*” In fact, the need for marriage itself is a problematic precondition that comes up again at the end of the film.
* And on and on. Is this relationship up to meeting the conditions imposed on it? Can their love survive Westley’s apparent death at the hands of Dread Pirate Roberts, his death again at the hands of Prince Humperdink, her marrying Prince Humperdink without meaning to, etc.? Their relationship is tested over and over again — by external preconditions that uncover their problematic need for certainty.

The Kid won’t allow the Grandfather’s attempts to strengthen their relationship through reading the story to progress unless the book meets his preconditions: “*Has it got any sports in it?”*

Prerequisites
Relationship Story Counterpoint

The counterpoint of Prerequisites can be seen in the necessary steps they must take to learn the relationship’s true potential. The Fire Swamp and it’s three terrors they must survive together — and with each, learn to trust each other more — is the best example of this.

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Preconditions vs.Prerequisites


Certainty
Relationship Story Problem

Certainty causes all sorts of problems for them within their relationship. In fact, it is almost as though the relationship’s need for certainty about where it stands is so great, that it would rather wallow in the despair of a tragic certainty, than to believe there is a potential for something happier.

For example, Buttercup’s certainty that Westley is dead: *“On the high seas, your ship attacked, and the Dread Pirate Roberts _never _takes prisoners.” *This causes them much grief — and not just Buttercup’s own grief, but grief within the relationship. If Buttercup had considered the potential for Westley to be alive, she might not have been subjected to being the Princess Bride. She might even have gone out looking for Westley.

With Westley’s strong belief in the power of true love, one might expect that his side of the relationship does not encounter problems relating to Certainty. But the relationship encounters difficulty from Westley’s side when it lacks certainty of Buttercup’s loyalty. In fact, Westley seems certain that she no longer loves him, which causes deep pain to be felt in the relationship between them:

MAN IN BLACK: Faithfulness he talked of, madam. Your enduring faithfulness. Now, tell me truly. When you found out he was gone, did you get engaged to your prince that same hour, or did you wait a whole week out of respect for the dead?
BUTTERCUP: You mocked me once, never do it again — I died that day!

The relationship’s need to be certain even shows up in the beginning of their romance, when it requires Buttercup and Westley to meet silly preconditions of the farm boy doing menial chores for his love, before it will allow itself to fall in love.

Potentiality
Relationship Story Solution

The relationship’s true potential is *mentioned* several times, mostly by Westley when he says things like “death cannot stop true love”. But Westley saying it and the relationship embracing it are two different things. Throughout the film the relationship hesitates to embrace its awesome potential, held back by worldly problems like pirate attacks, marrying someone else, death, etc. Through all those terrible difficulties the relationship *learns *its true potential, that it can transcend all earthly challenges and preconditions. Together they learn time and again that nothing, not even death — whether Westley’s death or the relationship’s apparent death through Buttercup’s marrying another — can stop true love. All it can do it delay it for a while.

Probability
Relationship Story Symptom

(These examples combine Symptom & Response)

When something terrible or tragic seems likely to befall their relationship (or to have already befallen it), they seem to accept that likelihood as a certainty (due to the influence of the Relationship Story Problem). Thus they respond by either:

*  accepting the impossibility of the tragedy being averted, or
*  by placing their efforts on what seems to be the only possible way to salvage things

Both of these different Possibility responses cause difficulties in their own ways.

For example, faced with the likelihood of their relationship’s destruction when Westley is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup embraces the impossibility of his being alive (*the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners)*. Meanwhile Westley focuses on the possibility that he can convince Roberts to spare him and eventually find his way back to Buttercup.

Later, when Humperdink catches them outside the Fire Swamp, it seems improbable that their relationship can continue; Humperdink will probably kill Westley. This is made worse by Westley shouting “Death first!” and all the crossbows aimed at his heart. Sensing this, they respond by accepting the one possible chance for survival — Buttercup’s deal with Humperdink, which at least has a possibility of having Westley returned to his ship safely.

BUTTERCUP: I thought you were dead once, and it almost destroyed me. I could not bear it if you died again, not when I _could_ save you.

Here you can also see the influence of the problem of Certainty. The relationship grasps for the one possibility where it can be sure of staying alive (separating and giving up) rather than embracing its true potential and fighting to stay together.

Possibility
Relationship Story Response

When something terrible or tragic seems likely to befall their relationship (or to have already befallen it), they seem to accept that likelihood as a certainty (due to the influence of the Relationship Story Problem). Thus they respond by either:

*  accepting the impossibility of the tragedy being averted, or
*  by placing their efforts on what seems to be the only possible way to salvage things

Both of these different Possibility responses cause difficulties in their own ways.

For example, faced with the likelihood of their relationship’s destruction when Westley is captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup embraces the impossibility of his being alive (*the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners)*. Meanwhile Westley focuses on the possibility that he can convince Roberts to spare him and eventually find his way back to Buttercup.

Later, when Humperdink catches them outside the Fire Swamp, it seems improbable that their relationship can continue; Humperdink will probably kill Westley. This is made worse by Westley shouting “Death first!” and all the crossbows aimed at his heart. Sensing this, they respond by accepting the one possible chance for survival — Buttercup’s deal with Humperdink, which at least has a possibility of having Westley returned to his ship safely.

BUTTERCUP: I thought you were dead once, and it almost destroyed me. I could not bear it if you died again, not when I _could_ save you.

Here you can also see the influence of the problem of Certainty. The relationship grasps for the one possibility where it can be sure of staying alive (separating and giving up) rather than embracing its true potential and fighting to stay together.

Analysis
Relationship Story Catalyst

The relationship story’s pace and drive to resolution increases whenever they are critical in analysing the other’s motivations — like when Westley questions Buttercup’s “enduring faithfulness” or when Buttercup tells him not to mock her. The same is true when they analyse others’ influence on their relationship, like when Buttercup questions Humperdink and begins to learn the truth.

Need
Relationship Story Inhibitor

The relationship story’s pace slows down whenever they become mired in the grief of being *deprived *of their true love.

Doing
Relationship Story Benchmark

The relationship story’s progress toward resolution can be measured by they are willing to do for each other. Saving each other in the Fire Swamp, yelling at Humperdink, coming back from the dead, etc. Doing things with and for each other is what allows them to learn the potential of their relationship.

Additional Relationship Story Information →

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Conceiving
Overall Story Goal

The Prince’s plot is to get Florin to conceive of Guilder as their enemy by murdering Buttercup and blaming it on Guilder; so the main Story Goal is to prevent that.

Learning
Overall Story Consequence

If they fail to stop the Prince’s plot, the people of Florin will never learn how evil their Prince truly is, and the Prince will never learn his lesson. Florin will operate under the misconception that Buttercup was assassinated by agents of Guilder, go to war, and never learn the truth.

The consequence can also be seen clearly in Inigo’s story, where he comes so close to failing that the consequence comes to life briefly. Through Inigo’s attempt at revenge, Count Rugen learns who Inigo is and that he has failed, and Inigo’s (and the audience’s) heart sinks as we see Count Rugen *learning the truth without conceiving the idea that he was wrong to murder Inigo’s father:*

**RUGEN:** You must be that little Spanish brat I taught a lesson to all those years ago. It’s simply incredible. Have you been chasing me your whole life only to fail now? _I think that’s the worst thing I ever heard. How marvelous._

How awful, for Rugen to learn the truth without conceiving at all that he was wrong. Luckily, Inigo was able to turn things around!

Present
Overall Story Cost

Present circumstances (i.e. difficult ones that must be endured) are the costs that must be borne in this story. For example: being away from your true love, enduring pain and fear, having to endure the terrors of the Fire Swamp, Buttercup having to spend time with the horrible Prince, Westley struggling to make his body move after being resurrected, Inigo enduring the pain of his dagger-wound, etc.

Conscious
Overall Story Dividend

Inigo gets a chance to contemplate the job of Dread Pirate Roberts. The Kid thinks over how much he likes the story, and invites the Grandfather to read it again (which will allow them both to contemplate it further). Buttercup and Westley get lots of chances to kiss and contemplate their love (while the Grandfather contemplates it too). Inigo gets Westley to ruminate on the story of the six-fingered man, and they bond over this, which later gets Westley to mull over what he should do with Inigo “I would sooner destroy a stained-glass window than an artist like yourself.” Even in the midst of their duel, Inigo and Westley get to engage in a sort of shared contemplation of the art of fencing.

Even Humperdink and Count Rugen get to have odd little contemplative conversations about their dastardly plots which they seem to enjoy:

HUMPDERINK: “But it’s going to be so much more moving when I strangle her on our wedding night.”

Then later in the same conversation:

RUGEN: “if you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.”

Being
Overall Story Requirements

All sorts of pretending, playing roles and bluffs are the requirements to achieving the goal of foiling Humperdink’s plan:

* To successfully storm the castle, Westley, Inigo and Fezzik must each play their required roles: Westley must resume his “man in black” persona, Inigo must be the incredible swordsman, and Fezzik must act the big brute, scaring people and breaking down doors
* Westley, Inigo and Fezzik must pretend to be a huge monster in order to scare away the guards at the castle gate
* Westley must pretend to be returned to his full strength in order to bluff Prince Humperdink into surrendering (even the bluff itself a type of Playing a Role)
* Earlier in the film, Westley must adopt the Man in Black persona to save Buttercup from the kidnappers

Doing
Overall Story Prerequisites

To successfully perform each bluff and play each role mentioned in the Requirements, things must be Done. For example, for Westley to play the Man in Black role he must climb the cliffs, defeat Inigo, etc. To bluff the gate guards pre-requires setting up the wheelbarrow and holocast cloak and lighting Fezzik on fire. Finally, and most importantly, for Westley to bluff Humperdink he MUST stand up convincingly — that is why that moment is so important, because standing up is the almost-impossible thing that Westley must *do* to achieve the bluff that leads to the Story Goal.

Progress
Overall Story Preconditions

Miracle Max does not want to help, as there doesn’t seem to be anything in it for him. They find a way to make him realize that by healing Westley, who is Buttercup’s true love, Max is improving his own situation by worsening Humperdink’s situation.

The Fire Swamp imposes the precondition of needing to make progress through it, especially the Lightning Sand which must drag Buttercup out of. In fact, Buttercup is ready to give up, and makes it a precondition that for her to go on, Westley must show how much progress they have made:

BUTTERCUP: We’ll never succeed. We may as well die here.
WESTLEY: No. No. We have already succeeded. (he goes onto explain their progress against the three terrors of the Fire Swamp)

Preconscious
Overall Story Forewarnings

Unthinking reactions and responses signal the impending doom of Humperdink’s plot succeeding:

* Buttercup spontaneously jumping into the eel-infested waters
* Buttercup’s dream of being booed, in which she panics
* Yelling and chaos as the Brute Squad clears the Thieves’ Forest
* Humperdink’s reaction to Buttercup declaring that he is a coward — he freaks out and turns the Machine to fifty; Count Rugen screams “not to fifty!”
* Westley’s gigantic scream upon being “killed” by the Machine, which can be heard for miles
* Inigo’s panic at not being able to reach the six-fingered man behind the door

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Conceiving
Overall Story Signpost 1

The boy can’t conceive of liking the romantic parts of the book.

There is a boat following in eel-infested waters. *Inconceivable! *The Man in Black is climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, and gaining on them. *Inconceivable! *They cut the rope and:

**VIZZINI: **He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!!
**INIGO: **You keep using that word—I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo is telling Vizzini that his *conception *of the word *inconceivable *is wrong!

Being
Overall Story Signpost 2

When the sword fight begins, each of the three kidnappers play their role (swordsman, brute, mastermind) against the Man in Black. And the Man in Black himself is a but a role played by Westley. Meanwhile, Humperdink plays his role as the Great Hunter.

Becoming
Overall Story Signpost 3

After Buttercup’s fateful deal with Humperdink, the nature of everything changes. Buttercup has become a pallid, sad shadow of her former self. Inigo has become a drunk, and Fezzik has to become Inigo’s nursemaid. Westley who was so unconquerable as the Man in Black, becomes a prisoner of the Machine. Humperdink, usually so calm and unruffled, goes crazy when Buttercup calls him a coward. Westley dies (perhaps he’s only mostly dead, but it’s still a significant transformation).

Conceptualizing
Overall Story Signpost 4

Inigo comes up with a plan to get Miracle Max’s help, who figures out Westley’s condition and how to cure him. Inigo, Fezzik and Westley develop and implement their plan for breaking into the castle and rescuing Buttercup, including the all-important wheelbarrow and holocaust cloak.

Main Character

Preconscious
Main Character Signpost 1

Buttercup becomes unresponsive when she learns of Westley’s death at sea, shutting herself up and not eating nor sleeping for days. Later, she spontaneously jumps into eel-infested waters.

Subconscious
Main Character Signpost 2

When they are captured outside the Fire Swamp, Buttercup’s deep fear of Westley dying, of losing him again, motivates her to make a deal with Humperdink.

Conscious
Main Character Signpost 3

Buttercup’s dream that she has married Humperdink and is now the Queen of Slime etc. is a way of her mulling things over. With this dream and her reaction to it, she thinks over the deal she made with Humperdink, and contemplates suicide, then uses that possibility of suicide to get him to promise to contact Westley.

Memory
Main Character Signpost 4

Once the wedding is over due to skipping the “I do” part, she thinks that Westley has forgotten her. Later when Westley does come, he asks her to remember whether they actually said “I do”.

Influence Character

Present
Influence Character Signpost 1

Westley impacts everyone’s present circumstances through his pursuit of the kidnappers and Buttercup.

Future
Influence Character Signpost 2

As they progress through the Fire Swamp, Westley begins to make Buttercup think that they have a good chance at a future together. But when they are surrounded by Humperdink’s men, Buttercup is impacted by the knowledge that she could not survive a future where she could have saved him from death:

*BUTTERCUP: “I could not bear it if you died again, not when I could save you.”*

Past
Influence Character Signpost 3

Westley’s past feats as the Man in Black impact Inigo and Fezzik, making them seek him out. This even influences Inigo to call up The Past by invoking his dead father: “Father, I have failed you for twenty years. Now our misery can end.”
Thinking about Westley, Buttercup keeps challenging Humperdink’s past assertions and promises about him — whether there has been word from Westley, how many ships he sent, etc.

Progress
Influence Character Signpost 4

Westley’s progress from death to weakling to apparent good health impacts everyone — it helps Inigo and Fezzik make progress through the castle, it makes Humperdink so concerned with the progress of his wedding that he skips part of it. Then Westley bluffs Humperdink into believing his recovery from death has progressed further than it really has: “Perhaps I have the strength after all.” In fact, this bluff of “The Pain” gets Humperdink to imagine himself regressing from Prince to a horrible creature.

Relationship Story

Doing
Relationship Story Signpost 1

The relationship demonstrates its obsession with certainty and preconditions as Buttercup gets Westley to *do *all those menial tasks to prove his love.

Obtaining
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Through the activities of attempting to escape from Humperdink and winning their way through the Fire Swamp together, they learn the depths they will go to protect each other.

Learning
Relationship Story Signpost 3

Their relationship progresses as Buttercup gathers information on Humperdink’s promises (to keep Westley alive, to send word to him by his four fastest ships, etc.). Through her involvement in these activities, the relationship begins to embrace its potential of true love.

Understanding
Relationship Story Signpost 4

The relationship suffers a misunderstanding when Buttercup thinks that she has married Humperdink. In a way, this marriage to another seems like death to Westley and Buttercup’s relationship. But when Westley explains it was all a misunderstanding, that their relationship has actually survived the “death” of marriage to another, the relationship realizes the ultimate truth of its potential — *death cannot stop true love.*

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics

OS: MC: IC: RS:

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