Prologue and explanation- Everyone knows (or should know) the Iocane Powder scene from 'The Princess Bride'. Unfortunately, everyone misunderstands what really happened. So here is the truth. The words are the same as you remember. The actions are the same. But Vizzini's thoughts were not represented. Here is what the Smartest Man in the World was thinking...

For maximum accuracy in recall, the scene is taken directly from the script.

Scene: Open area

(Vizzini looks behind him, the mysterious Man in Black is gaining on them. In the distance he could see a large group of horsemen, who must be the Prince and his entourage. He knew why the Prince was there- to kill him. Vizzini knew state secrets (the murder of the Princess was a setup) and could not be allowed to live. But the Man in Black? He wasn't after Vizzini, Vizzini didn't leave live enemies behind. He clearly wanted the girl for some reason. She was attractive, certainly, but there were millions of beautiful women in the world. Why this one? SO Vizzini had kept her as a potentially valuable bargaining chip rather than cast her aside. He had been planning on ransoming her to Guilder. It was inconceivable that the Prince could think he was stupid enough to return to Florin to collect the other part of his promised payment for the kidnapping. But now he had two separate enemies after him. Maybe he could defeat the Man in Black, but in the time it would take the Prince would catch up. He could not defeat the Prince and his men. Can't run. Can't hide. Can't fight. No time. Perfect. It was a problem that required wits to solve. Too easy for the Smartest Man in the World. Two enemies meant two tools to use. Two... opportunities. Each problem to solve the other. He looked for a suitable place to stop...)

Vizzini is seated behind a covered table. Buttercup, blindfolded, is sitting to his left. He holds a dagger to her neck. On the table is a bottle of wine and two goblets. The Man In Black approaches the Table.

Vizzini: So it is down to you, and it is down to me. Pause. If you wish her dead, by all means, keep moving forward.

Man In Black: Let me explain-

Vizzini: There's nothing to explain. You're trying to kidnap what I have rightfully stolen.

Man In Black: Perhaps an arrangement can be reached?

(ah, good Vizzini thought. this fool can be manipulated. There was some small possibility that he could not...)

Vizzini: There will be no arrangement, and you're killing her.

Man In Black: Well if there can be no arrangement, then we are at an impasse.

Vizzini: I'm afraid so. I can't compete with you physically, and you're no match for my brains.

Man In Black: You're that smart?

Vizzini: Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?

Man In Black: Yes.

Vizzini: Morons.

Man In Black: Really. Pause. In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.

(You challenge me to a battle of wits? Wow, you really are dense...)

Vizzini: For the princess? The Man in Black nods. To the death? Nods again. I accept. Sheaths dagger.

Man In Black: Good. Then pour the wine. Sits, pulls out a small vial, uncorks it, and offers it to Vizzini. Inhale this, but do not touch.

(You honestly think I am stupid enough to fall for the 'does this smell like poison to you' trick? Inconceivable! I invented that trick! But I will play along. I can see where this is going...)

Vizzini:Sniffs vial. I smell nothing. Returns vial.

(Vizzini carefully does NOT sniff the vial, only pretends, while making sure to constantly blow out through his nose so no poison enters his system)

Man In Black: What you do not smell is called Iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.

Vizzini: Hmm.

(Of course I knew it would be Iocane Powder, you dolt! Everyone knows about Iocane Powder)

Man In Black: Turns away from Vizzini with the goblets, to pour the poison in. Goblets replaced on the table, one in front of each. All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right... and who is dead.

(Yeah, sure... The FIRST thing everyone knows about Iocane Powder is that you can immunize yourself against it by taking small doses over time, though I hear that causes impotence, and only a fool would do it. So you think you are clever. You are immune to Iocane Powder. This is going to be so much easier than I thought. I caught that cunning look in your eyes. An honest man might poison one cup and count on his immunity to protect him if he ends up with the wrong one. But you have obviously gotten 'clever' and poisoned both. All I have to do is keep you from realizing that I know. But you know I am smart, and so you will be expecting a con. So I will give you one... the wrong one. You can't outthink the Smartest Man in the World, boy.)

Vizzini: But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Man In Black: You've made your decision then?

(This nonsensical blather is fun. How long can I spin it out?)

Vizzini: Not remotely. Because Iocane comes from Australia, as everyone knows, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.

Man In Black: Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

Vizzini: WAIT TILL I GET GOING! Where was I?

Man In Black: Australia.

Vizzini: Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Man In Black: You're just stalling now.

Vizzini: YOU'D LIKE TO THINK THAT, WOULDN'T YOU? You've beaten my giant, which means you're exceptionally strong, so you could've put the poison in your own goblet, trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But, you've also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.

Man In Black: You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.


(Yes, play up the stupid overconfidence. But this has gone on long enough. It's time for the trick that Chinaman taught me...)

Man In Black: Then make your choice.

Vizzini: I will, and I choose- What in the world can that be?

Vizzini gestures up and away from the table. The Man In Black looks.

Man In Black: What? Where? Vizzini switches the goblets. Turning back. I don't see anything.

Vizzini: Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. Smirks.

Man In Black: What's so funny?

Vizzini: I'll tell you in a minute. First, let's drink. Me from my glass, Picks up glass. and you from yours.

They drink.

Man In Black: Pointing. You guessed wrong.

Vizzini: You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha- Stops suddenly, and falls dead, to his right.

(ball in place to block the pulse in my arm, check. Meditate carefully to lower my metabolism, check. Fixed stare at nothing, check. Open eyes are creepy, no one like to look closely at that. I hate this last part, but it's necessary... void bowels, check...)

The Man in Black removes Buttercup's blindfold.

Buttercup: Who are you?

Man In Black: I'm no one to be trifled with. That is all you ever need know. He unties her hands and feet.

Buttercup: And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.

Man In Black: They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to Iocane powder. He grabs her arm and they run off.

(OK, (an anachronistic term, but Vizzini was a genius...) now relax until the Prince and his men get here, then renew the illusion...)

Humperdinck sniffs at the vial.

Humperdinck: Iocane. I'd bet my life on it. Points. And there are the princess's footprints. She is alive, or was an hour ago. If she is otherwise when I find her, I shall be very put out. He rises, mounts his horse, and they ride off.

(Wait, wait... wait. Until I can no longer hear hoofbeats. The Prince and his men will catch the Man in Black and return. If I am missing they will know something is up and will hunt me down... There they are. But not close. Hold. Hold. Hold. The hoofbeats are getting fainter... Gone. And once again I have done it. He rises. The Man in Black must have killed my Giant and my Spaniard. Shame, I will have to recruit new lackies. No lackies and no Princess to ransome to Guilder, but I still have the Prince's initial payment. Now, where to...?)