Study Guide

The Princess Bride Chapter 6

By William Goldman

Chapter 6

The Festivities

  • This chapter begins with another huge chunk that Goldman has decided to cut from the original Morgenstern version of The Princess Bride. According to Goldman, these pages just include tons of description of the festivities leading up to Prince Humperdinck's marriage to Buttercup.
  • We look back in on the story to follow Inigo Montoya after he regains consciousness from his fight with Westley.
  • Inigo doesn't know what to do at first, but then he remembers the clear instructions that his leader, the Sicilian, gave for whenever a plan went wrong: "'Go back to the beginning.'" So as Inigo remembers, they began their scheme back in the Thieves' Quarter, a dingy neighborhood in Florin City.
  • When he gets back to the Thieves' Quarter, the place is even worse than Inigo remembered it. He realizes that he's right back where he was before the Sicilian found him—a.k.a. a total failure. And this thought makes him turn to drinking.
  • Meanwhile, we look in on Fezzik, who is also recovering from unconsciousness following his fight with Westley. He knows that his group has a rule for what to do when things don't go well with a plan, but he can't remember what it is. He follows the path to where the Sicilian lies dead from poison. He gets scared then, and starts calling for Inigo, but there's no answer, so eventually he goes into a cave and waits there, trying to look on the bright side of life.
  • Now we flash back to Westley, who is chained up in a giant cage on the final level of Prince Humperdinck's Zoo of Death. The only person in the room with him is an albino, a guy whose skin and hair is totally white.
  • Westley knows he's in for torture, so he starts preparing his mind to withstand the pain.
  • Meanwhile, the preparations for Humperdinck and Buttercup's wedding continue. Oh yeah, and the King of Florin dies, thus making Humperdinck the new King. And then the wedding happens and Buttercup becomes Queen of Florin. Yeah, sorry folks—this is what happens in the book.
  • Now that she's queen, Buttercup wants to walk among the commoners as their queen. They all cheer for her as she walks past, but a sole voice calls out boo. This woman accuses Buttercup of giving up her one true love for the sake of living a life of riches. It's not clear how the woman knows this, but she definitely shakes Buttercup's conscience. The screaming gets louder and louder until finally—
  • Buttercup wakes up in bed. It was all a dream, and her wedding is still sixty days away. At this point, Goldman takes a moment to tell us how much this fake-out made him freak when he was just a little boy listening to this story. He also warns us not to expect too many happy fake-outs as the story continues, and even lets slip that certain characters are going to die, and not necessarily the ones we think.
  • The next night, Buttercup has another dream. In this one, she has a baby boy, but when she feeds the boy her breast milk, the boy yells that the milk is sour because there's no love in it. Once again, Buttercup wakes from the dream and realizes that she's betrayed Westley by agreeing to marry Humperdinck.
  • By the fourth night, Buttercup can't sleep anymore. She goes to Humperdinck's chambers one night and reveals to him that she's in love with Westley and always has been. She also vows that if Humperdinck doesn't let her go without marrying him, she'll kill herself.
  • Humperdinck makes her a deal: If Westley still wants to marry her, he (Humperdinck) will step aside and leave them be. If Westley isn't interested anymore, though, Buttercup will marry Humperdinck. Buttercup agrees to the deal, certain that Westley still wants her. Humperdinck also asks her to pretend that the wedding is still on until they hear from Westley. Then Buttercup runs off to write a letter to Westley explaining everything to him. We already know this letter will never reach Westley (don't think they do mail delivery to the Zoo), but Buttercup doesn't.
  • Meanwhile, Prince Humperdinck decides that he's going to kill Buttercup on their wedding night and make it look like an attack from the neighboring country of Guilder. Classy, right? Turns out that he was the guy who hired the Sicilian and his crew to do this same thing, because he's determined to wage war with Guilder.
  • That night, Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen torture Westley. Westley is able to transport his mind away from his body, though, so he doesn't feel any of the pain. Humperdinck demands to know who hired Westley to kidnap Buttercup, even though he already knows that Westley is Buttercup's lover. Nonetheless, he's determined to continue in his ruse about the Guilder conspiracy.
  • When Humperdinck returns to his bedroom, he finds Buttercup waiting outside. She wants help in writing her letter to Westley and proclaiming her love for him. It's a pretty weird request, but Humperdinck agrees to play along and help her.
  • The next day, Humperdinck calls in his chief of security and mentions that Guilder might be conspiring to kill Buttercup. The Chief says he hasn't heard anything about such a conspiracy, but he'll keep an eye out; as a precaution, he and Humperdinck decide to shut down the Thieves' Quarter of Florin and imprison everyone in there until the wedding is over.
  • At this moment, a horrifying scream echoes through all of Florin. Humperdinck gets up from his chair and rushes to the Zoo of Death. Count Rugen is waiting for him outside his chambers, and all he says is, "'The Machine works.'" This doesn't bode very well for Westley.
  • Humperdinck is excited about the Machine, but he's also tired from all the wedding preparations, so he asks Rugen to take care of using the Machine on Westley without him around.
  • Count Rugen offers to walk Buttercup back to her room. While they walk, Rugen asks her questions about how tough Westley is and what it would take to make him cry out in pain. Buttercup answers that Westley is the toughest guy in the world and that nothing could possibly make him cry.
  • After this, the Count visits Westley and shows him his great Pain Machine. The Count knows that Westley has been taking his brain away from all the pain and torture the Count's been inflicting. But this Machine will prevent that sort of thing from working. For now, the Count is content to let Westley look at the Machine.
  • The next night, though, the Count returns and is ready to get going. He shows Westley that the Machine can be set on a level from one to twenty. And Westley starts screaming and crying on the very first level. This part can get pretty tough to read.
  • Meanwhile, the Chief of Florin Security (named Yellin) is walking with his brute squad toward the Thieves' Quarter, ready to kick out and imprison all the thieves until after Humperdinck's wedding. They have trouble, though, when they try to arrest Inigo; even though the guy is drunk, he's still skilled enough with his sword to keep them away.
  • When Inigo comes forward to the brute squad this time, he realizes that one of them is Fezzik. It's a pretty sweet reunion, although Fezzik's partner in the brute squad doesn't know what's going on. They have orders to get rid of Inigo, but Fezzik won't allow it; he quickly knocks the dude out and throws him into a wagon.
  • Fezzik helps Inigo sober up by making him some food. Then Fezzik tells Inigo that he has found the six-fingered man that Inigo has been chasing for years. The guy's name is Count Rugen and he is partnered up with Prince Humperdinck. Inigo passes out from booze, but we can imagine that he's interested in what Fezzik has said.
  • When Inigo has sobered up, the two of them try to hatch a plan to break into Humperdinck's castle, but they realize that even with all their strength and skill, they need more help. They both realize that they need the planning skills of the man in black (Westley), but they don't know where to find him. Inigo is quick to figure that Florin is the only place they have the power to search, so the two of them set off blindly through the city streets.
  • Meanwhile, Westley lies underground being tortured by the Count's Machine. According to the author, Westley has already had twenty years of his life sucked away.
  • At dusk, Buttercup goes to knock on Prince Humperdinck's bedroom door again. She finds Humperdinck talking to Yellin, his head of security—they've been arguing about whether there is a Guilder plot against Buttercup or not. Yellin insists that there isn't, but Humperdinck keeps pushing this myth.
  • When Buttercup asks Humperdinck about whether Westley has responded to her letter, Humperdinck slips up and lets Buttercup realize that her letter never made it to Westley at all. Once Yellin is out of the room, she accuses Humperdinck of being a liar. Oh yeah, and did we mention that their wedding is tomorrow?
  • Buttercup calls him a coward and a wimp. She says that his precious Zoo of Death is nothing but a sham that he uses to convince himself he's tough; the truth is that he's an insecure weakling. At this, Humperdinck grabs her and locks her in her bedroom. After that, he runs as quickly as he can to the Zoo of Death.
  • Goldman informs us that at this point, his father tended to stop reading The Princess Bride because something unpleasant was about to happen. Westley dies, it turns out. We know, we know. It's not fair. But that's actually what happens.
  • Humperdinck rushes into the fifth level of the Zoo of Death and cranks Count Rugen's Machine all the way up to twenty. The machine completely destroys every last bit of life inside Westley until there is nothing but a smoldering corpse left. Westley's dying scream is so horrible that everyone in all of Florin can hear it.
  • From the streets, Inigo Montoya hears the scream and knows immediately that it's coming from the man in black. He and Fezzik go rushing for the sound's source as quickly as they can.
  • Back in the Zoo of Death, Count Rugen orders the albino torturer to go get a wheelbarrow to dispose of Westley's body. When he gets outside, though, the albino runs into Inigo and Fezzik. The two of them ask about Westley and find out that he's in the bottom level of the Zoo, then Fezzik knocks the albino out and the two of them enter the Zoo. Little do they know, though, that they're entering through the most dangerous entrance and that they're about to travel down through four levels of deadly beasts.

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