Why the ‘Battle of Wits’ Scene Was a Sham

The Princess Bride is a truly classic movie, but after rewatching the “Battle of Wits” scene, some fans think all is not as it seems.

With all its swashbuckling heroes, hilarious comedy and absolute ridiculousness, The princess to be married is undoubtedly one of the most beloved films of all time. Very few films seem to nail it all, but Rob Reiner’s masterpiece is one of them. From the sick grandson’s framing apparatus to the final kiss between Wesley and Buttercup, everything else worked together to tell a very complete story.

The princess to be married will celebrate its 35th anniversary later this year, but it’s one of those movies worth watching regardless of age. In 2020, there was even a virtual cast reunion and script reading that ended up being a successful political fundraiser. So it’s clear that fans can’t get enough of the sword fights, clever banter, and heartfelt themes. In fact, fan theories about The princess to be married still do the trick, one of which involves the famous “Battle of Wits” scene.


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Princess Bride Vicinny and Buttercup

The scene happened after the “man in black” (who, of course, was Wesley) defeated swordsman Inigo Montoya (although neither of them could beat Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings) and Fezzik the Giant. But with Buttercup in sight, he had one final challenge: Vizzini’s intelligence. So he decided to challenge the clever Sicilian to a battle of wits. Having a high opinion of himself and wanting a chance to prove his intelligence, Vizzini agreed.

Wesley pulled out a container of Iocane Power, turned around, and poisoned one of the two wine glasses. Then he told Vizzini to choose who would drink from which glass. After a lot of reverse psychology, ramblings, stalling, and trickery, Vizzini picked a drink, drank, and died. When Buttercup asked what happened, Wesley explained that both glasses were poisoned and that he had simply developed immunity to Iocane powder.


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princess bride battle of wits

From there, it was clear that Vizzini was doomed, regardless of his choice. However, one particular fan theory makes Vizzini’s demise even worse. Submitted by Homeschool-Winner on Reddit, the theory states that Wesley did not poison any glass of wine. Instead, he poisoned Vizzini when the latter inhaled the powder. It would still have entered his system and killed him anyway. If so, Wesley just had to stall long enough for Vizzini to rock.

While fans have believed both glasses were poisoned for decades (and Wesley certainly wouldn’t be the first person to poison himself for a cause), there is a reasonable amount of evidence to support the princess bride theory. First, the way Wesley handled Iocane’s container indicated that he only had a little. It therefore seems unlikely that he could have spent the last few years developing immunity to the poison if his supply was so limited. On top of that, it seems unlikely that he had any reason to build up immunity. Again, if the Iocane Powder was hard to acquire, the chances of someone trying to poison Wesley with it would have been slim. Thus, he would have had little reason to try dangerously to build up immunity.


Two things go against this princess bride theory, however. While tracking down Buttercup’s captors, Prince Humperdinck also smelled Wesley’s poison and did not die. This can be explained by saying that the prince was an expert tracker and did not allow himself to inhale the poison, whereas Vizzini inhaled it deeply. Besides, Humperdinck himself could have developed an immunity to poison because there is always someone trying to kill royalty. However, what really disproves this theory is that Wesley told Buttercup that he poisoned both glasses. She was his true love, and he had no reason to lie to her about something so insignificant. So while Vizzini dying from inhaling Iocane is an interesting theory, it’s probably wrong. But anyway, Vizzini lost the “battle of wits”.


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Sharon D. Cole