Queen Bella is King Lotharon’s wife and Prince Humperdinck’s stepmother. He calls her the evil stepmother, but actually she is sweet and considerate and much beloved in the kingdom.
Buttercup grows up on a farm and at the age of fifteen is potentially one of the most beautiful women in the world. However, she does not care about beauty or about the hired hand she calls Farm Boy who works on her family’s farm. When she is nearly seventeen she falls in love with the Farm Boy, Westley, and starts to take some trouble with her appearance. Within a few weeks she goes from being the twentieth most beautiful woman in the world to ninth, and is still rising. She is happy to wait while Westley makes his fortune in America and is devastated when she hears about Westley’s death at the hands of pirates. She vows never to love again. When Prince Humperdinck, seeking a beautiful bride, asks her to marry him, she agrees only on the condition that she will not be required to love him. When Westley rescues her from kidnappers, she once more expresses her love for him. When they are cornered by Prince Humperdinck she surrenders to the Prince rather than dying with Westley, admitting that she can live without love. She later has nightmares in which she regrets her choice, and she remains calm as her wedding to Prince Humperdinck takes place, knowing that Westley will come to save her.
Buttercup’s father is a farmer who is not good at anything. He is neither a good farmer nor a good husband. He and his wife spend much of their time squabbling, each trying to score points in a running argument.
Buttercup’s mother worries a lot and is a bad cook. She always wanted to be popular, but it never happened. What keeps her alive is her endless fighting with her husband. When he dies, she dies soon after, as if she could not live without him.
Falkbridge owns an alehouse in the Thieves Quarter. He practically runs the Thieves Quarter and has a hand in almost every crime that goes on there. To escape jail he regularly pays a bribe to Yellin.
Fezzik is a huge, gentle Turk who is recruited by Vizzini to help kidnap Buttercup. When Fezzik was one year old, he already weighed eighty-five pounds, and he started shaving when he was in kindergarten. Fezzik is incredibly strong. He once held up an elephant using only the muscles in his back, and his arms are tireless. However, he is not very bright and always has to be told what to do. Even so, he is fascinated by words and loves to make rhymes. When Fezzik is put to the test in the fight with Westley, he comes up short; Westley is the first person to beat him. However, Fezzik proves his worth later on, terrifying the guards outside the castle and allowing Buttercup’s rescuers to enter.
See William Goldman
Helen Goldman is the author’s fictional wife. She has a brilliant intellect and is a child psychiatrist. However, she does not seem to be very skillful in handling people, and her marriage to William seems unhappy. He thinks she lacks a sense of humor.
Jason Goldman is the ten-year-old son of William and Helen Goldman. He is an overweight boy who eats too much, and his father thinks that, like his mother, Jason lacks a sense of humor. His father gives him an unabridged copy of The Princess Bride to read but Jason finds it boring. This gives William the idea to abridge the book to include only the interesting parts.
William Goldman is the author of the novel in which he also appears as a character. The character is a careful mixture of fact and fiction. In the novel, Goldman is, as in real life, the successful author of screenplays such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Stepford Wives, and the novel The Temple of Gold, which was published when he was twenty-six. However, most of the rest is a fictional creation. Goldman the fictional character is married to a child psychiatrist and has an overweight son. He also remembers hearing his father read The Princess Bride to him when he was ten, an experience that was instrumental in giving him a love of literature that no doubt contributed to his career as a writer. His wife thinks he is emotionally needy, and he admits that he does not love her. In spite of this, when he is away they talk to each other every day on the phone.
William Goldman’s Father
The fictional William Goldman’s father was a nearly illiterate immigrant from Florin who worked as a barber in Highland Park, Illinois. With great difficulty, and in a tongue that was foreign to him, he reads The Princess Bride to his ten-year-old son, but he skips through the boring parts. He also shows a sensitivity to his son’s feelings. He wants to skip the part where Wesley dies and he omits the ambiguous ending so that Billy (as he called his son) would think the story ended happily.
Hiram Haydn is Goldman’s editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Goldman calls him in the middle of the night to suggest an abridgement of Morgenstern’s classic story.
Prince Humperdinck is the son of King Lotharon and the heir to the throne. He is a huge, barrel-chested man who weighs about 250 pounds. He likes war but loves hunting so much he builds an underground Zoo of Death that contains all varieties of creatures, so he can amuse himself by hunting and killing them. He has no friends and confides only in Count Rugen. It soon becomes apparent that Humperdinck is a villain of the highest order. After he gets Buttercup to marry him he hires some assassins to kidnap her and dump her on the frontier of Guilder, the neighboring country, so he can blame Guilder for her death and start a war. He has wanted to conquer Guilder since he was a boy. When his first plan is foiled by Westley’s rescue of Buttercup he devises another one, in which he will personally kill Buttercup on her wedding night and blame her death on soldiers from Guilder. Humperdinck’s true nature is fully revealed when Buttercup calls him a coward. Outraged, he throws her into her room and locks the door, then goes to the Zoo of Death where he murders Westley.
King Lotharon is the king of Florin. He is very old and sick and can speak only by muttering and mumbling.
The Man in Black
Miracle Max is a healer who tended the king but was fired by Prince Humperdinck. This caused him to lose all his patients, and he now lives in a hut with his wife, Valerie. When Inigo and Fezzik bring the dead Westley to him, saying they need a miracle, Max at first refuses, saying he is retired. He agrees to bring Westley back from the dead only when he learns that Westley will stop Humperdinck’s marriage.
Domingo Montoya was Inigo’s father. He was a master sword maker from the village of Arabella in the mountains of northern Spain who met his death when a nobleman for whom he had made a six-fingered sword was dissatisfied with the product and, after an argument, killed him. His son Inigo has sworn to avenge his father’s death.
Inigo Montoya is a Spaniard who is a master swordsman. He developed his skills over many years of study and travel because he wanted to avenge his father’s death at the hands of a sixfingered nobleman. He witnessed this event when he was ten years old. After traveling the world for five years but failing to find his enemy, Inigo starts to drink and lose his purpose in life. He is rescued by Vizzini and recovers his sword fighting skills as a member of Vizzini’s criminal gang. He is bested by Westley in a sword fight but teams up with him to confront and kill Count Rugen, the six-fingered man, in the castle.
Edith Neisser wrote books about the psychology of human relationships. The fictional Goldman writes that he knew Neisser (a real person) when he was in his teens because they lived in the same town. It was Neisser who first told him that life is not fair.
Dread Pirate Roberts
Miss Roginksi is Goldman’s teacher from third to fifth grade at Highland Park Grammar School. She calls him a late bloomer because he is not good at academic subjects. When he later sends her a copy of his first novel, he is relieved to find that she remembers him.
Count Rugen is a big man with black hair and six fingers on his right hand. He is the only Count in Florin and is a confidant of Prince Humperdinck. The Count is an accomplished man and Humperdinck depends on him for his skills as an architect and inventor. The Count designed crucial elements of the Zoo of Death and invented the torture device known as the Machine. He is interested in pain and is writing a book about it. Many years ago he murdered Domingo Montoya, and he eventually gets his comeuppance when Inigo tracks him down. They engage in a sword fight, but the Count dies of fright when he realizes that Inigo is about to cut his heart out.
The Countess is the wife of the Count and is much admired, and also feared, in Florin. She is much younger than her husband and is considered to embody the height of taste and fashion. She acquires her clothes from Paris and eventually settles there.
Sandy Sterling is a Hollywood starlet. Goldman meets her at the hotel swimming pool when he is in California. She tells him that The Stepford Wives is one of her favorite books and that she would do anything to be in the movie.
See Count Rugen
Valerie is Miracle Max’s wife. She encourages him to come to an agreement with Inigo and resurrect Westley because she and Max need the money.
The hunchback Vizzini is a Sicilian criminal who is hired by Humperdinck to kidnap and kill Buttercup. Vizzini recruits Inigo and Fezzik to help him do the job. Vizzini is the undisputed leader of the group and he prides himself on his intelligence and cunning. He tells Westley that he is ‘‘the slickest, sleekest, sliest and wiliest fellow who has yet come down the pike.’’ But this formidable assembly of qualities does not enable him to outwit Westley, who tricks him into drinking a poisoned goblet of wine.
Westley is an orphan who was taken on by Buttercup’s father to work on the farm. He lives in a hovel but keeps it clean and reads by candlelight. Buttercup, however, thinks he is stupid and treats him with contempt as her virtual slave. She calls him Farm Boy. Westley is in fact handsome, muscular, and intelligent, and he has already fallen in love with Buttercup. After Buttercup finally realizes that she is in love with him too, he goes to America to make his fortune so that she can come and join him later. Within a few months, Westley is reputed to have been killed by pirates; but this is not so: he has become the Dread Pirate Roberts. He returns to Florin to save Buttercup from her abductors and then rescue her from Prince Humperdinck. Westley is the ideal hero throughout the story. He is a better fighter than either Inigo or Fezzik, and he cannot be forced by torture into lying. He never stops loving Buttercup and is brought back from the dead solely because his love is true. Also, he lives for longer than the resurrection pill should allow because he asks the ‘‘Lord of Permanent Affection’’ for the strength to stay alive for the entire day.
Yellin is the head of law enforcement in Florin City. He is a crafty man who takes bribes.
Yeste was a rich, fat master sword maker from Madrid who was a friend of Domingo Montoya. After Domingo was killed, Yeste looked after his son Inigo for two years.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, William Goldman, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.