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Dead and Loving It


The Personality of a Vampire

The events surrounding the "birth" of Angelus are recorded in "the Prodigal".  Here we see him rise from Liam's grave and take his first steps towards becoming a savage and remorseless killing machine.  And if that was all to Angelus there would be nothing very interesting to write about.  But, in spite of what Giles says, there is more to a vampire than just being “a vicious, violent animal.”

First of all they are rational beings.  According to Anya they may “think with their teeth” but there is plenty of evidence to show that they can and do forgo the satisfaction of short term appetites for a longer term goal.  The classic example of this is in “Becoming 2” when Spike forged a temporary alliance of convenience with the slayer to help him get revenge on Angelus and make sure Drusilla stayed with him.

Then Vampires have emotions.  They can hate; they can want revenge.  Their emotional make up can even leave them with psychological flaws.  In “Somnambulist”, for example, Penn’s hatred of his family (his father in particular) led to a pattern of killing which almost led to his downfall.

This combination of emotion and the rational response to it  and he way that the inter-reaction between them varies from individual to individual produces what we know as personalities.  Although, as I hope to demonstrate, the personality of a vampire is not the same as the personality of the human it took over, it nevertheless does make the vampire a recognizable individual, unlike the often anonymous demons we sometimes see, especially on BUFFY.  For example Spike is impatient, direct and iconoclastic.  Angelus on the other hand is cautious, his methods are indirect and well thought out and he seems entirely comfortable with the idea of a hierarchy.  This is one of the reasons why it seems to me that vampires remain the villain of choice for so many viewers.  Apart from Spike and Angelus just think of some of the vampires that we have seen:


 Dalton (the bookworm burned by the Judge);

 Mr. Trick;


 Russell Winters; and


Each has a different and interesting personality which in turn influences the way they behave. 

Like all of these Angelus’ personality was shaped by the cardinal influences in his own past and in its turn this influenced who and what he killed; why he killed and how he killed.  How was that personality shaped?

It is, I am afraid a much used and abused quote but our starting point here must be Giles’ description of a vampire in “Angel”:

“A vampire isn't a person at all. It may have the movements, the, the memories, even the personality of the person that it took over, but i-it's still a demon at the core, there is no halfway.”

This established from the very beginning of the BUFFY (and in the context of its most important vampire) the link between the personality of the vampire and of the human whose body it inherited.  It is, however, in some ways a very unsatisfactory statement in that it gives no hint of the subtleties and complexities inherent in forming the personality of the vampire.  And the clue to these subtleties is contained in the statement that the vampire isn’t a person, that is to say isn’t human.  In particular it lacks the defining feature of such a person:  a human soul.  One of the clearest statements about the nature of the soul comes in “Five by Five”.   When talking about Marquez, Wesley says:

"He may be a ruffian, but he's already got a soul, and therefore - deep down inside - an urge to do what's right."

In distinction, the demon which inherits the human body has an instinct to do what is evil.  Personality is the characteristic way in which a particular individual thinks, feels, and behaves. It embraces a person's moods, attitudes, and opinions and is most clearly expressed in interactions with others.  Almost by definition the personality of a demon cannot be the same as the personality of a human because the disposition to good or evil will fundamentally affect the way the individual will relate to others. 

We were not born to hunt and feed from one another so presumably the addition of that instinct is also a product of vampirism. The human’s higher  intellectual functions (perception, understanding, logic etc) may be inherited by the invading demon.  It can, therefore evaluate, remember and plan in exactly the same way as the former human. But  the moral standards that  it applies to what it perceives are now very different.   And the related social and moral values would also disappear and be replaced by different values.  These regarded strength as the greatest, perhaps the only, virtue and held many of our highest values including compassion in contempt.  Therefore, while some traits that would be recognizable in the human would remain, the overall personality of the vampire that would emerge would be a distortion rather than a true reflection of the personality of the human.  It seems to me therefore that in talking about the personality of a vampire, a more accurate description comes from Darla in “the Prodigal”:

“What we once were informs all that we have become.”

In other words the human personality is merely the starting point for the vampire personality, rather than something that is transferred to the demon wholesale and without modification.

We do not know nearly enough of Angelus’ history between 1753 and 1898 to attempt to analyze his actions chronologically.  Rather, bearing in mind the forgoing general statements about the nature of vampire personalities, I would like to examine certain specific aspects of his behavior.

“The most vicious creature I ever met”

Where better to start than with the Master’s encomium for Angelus.  In these words he was identified as something beyond other vampires in terms of his cruelty and his enjoyment of that cruelty.  As the First Evil says in the guise of Margaret:

“But you see, that's what makes you different than other beasts. They kill to feed, but you took more kinds of pleasure in it than any creature that walks or crawls.”

And indeed what is most striking about Angelus is the malevolent, deliberate relish in his cruelty; the sheer pleasure he got out of terrifying women especially.   This may be illustrated by the way he taunts Jenny in “Passion” or later Rebecca in “Eternity”

 “In all my years, I’ve never killed a famous person before.  But, with no witnesses, who’s gonna believe me?  Maybe we can take a picture.  I know!  We’ll do it like we did back in the day.  I’ll keep your head on a stick…as proof.”

Both scenes are  perfect illustrations of the own hunting methods referred to by Angel is “Somnambulist”

I… I stalk them, toy with them, mark them while they are still alive.  And before they can die from their fear, I feed on them.”

These characteristics and habits seem to have been particular trade marks of Angelus; something that marked him out from the generality of Vampires.  This raises the obvious and intriguing question of the extent to which they were influenced by anything unique about the personality of Liam.

Cruelty, and the enjoyment of it, are of course common currency among Vampires.   This itself (when taken in conjunction with hat I have said about the difference between human and demon souls) tends to suggest that it is inherent in the nature of the demon rather than the human being.   Certainly we know nothing about Liam as a human that would suggest there was anything innately vicious about him.  The worst we saw was that he was involved in a few fist fights.  As a comparator we can take the Gorch Brothers.

Giles: “They're from Abilene. They, uh, they made their reputation by massacring an entire Mexican village in 1886.”

Buffy:  “Friendly little demons.”

Giles:  “That was before they became vampires.”

As humans they were already ruthless killers.  As vampires they seemed quite average.  This itself would tend to support the proposition that the degree of Angelus’ brutality was not simply a reflection of some hidden viciousness within Liam.  But there may be less direct ways in which the scale and nature of Angelus’ crimes were influenced by the person Liam was.

There is considerable textual support in “the Prodigal” for the proposition that Liam’s strained relationship with his father influenced Angelus.  Liam was a “terrible disappointment” to his father and felt that fact very keenly. 

Liam: “Disappointment?  A more dutiful son you couldn’t have asked for.  My whole life you’ve told me in word, in glance, what it is you required of me, and I’ve lived down to your every expectations, now haven’t I?”

Dad:  “That’s madness!”

Angel:  “No.  The madness is that I couldn’t fail enough for you.  But we’ll fix that now, won’t we?”

Liam seems genuinely to have loved his father and equally genuinely to have wanted to please him.    But he could not break out of the vicious cycle of low expectation and low self-esteem he was trapped in.  This sort of self-doubt is something a vampire would despise.  We saw this is the reaction of both vamp Jesse and alt.Willow to their former selves.  Vamp Jesse for example spoke about the contrast between the way he felt now and his former self in the following terms:

“Okay... Let's deal with this. Jesse was an excruciating loser who couldn't get a date with anyone in the sighted community! Look at me. I'm a new man!”

It was this feeling of needing to prove he was no longer a looser that led him to get the better or Cordelia.  Similarly Angelus would have felt very keenly what he perceived as Liam’s weakness.  As a Vampire he would not have felt love for his father as such, any more than he would have felt the love Liam once felt for his sister.  But the residue of that love was there in the form of a desire to prove to his father he had now really amounted to something.  That is why, when offered his choice of anyone in the village to kill, he chose the whole village.  The scale of the slaughter would prove just how powerful he now was.  He taunts his father with this very fact:

Angel:  “You told me I wasn’t a man.  You told me I was nothing.   And I believed you.  You said I’d never amount to anything.  Well, you were wrong.  You see, father?   I have made something out of myself after all.”

The motivation to prove he was someone was human.  The method was vampire.  It is an interesting example of the melding of the two strands into a composite personality.

And it may be possible to recognize in Liam certain other characteristics that shaped Angelus’ predatory behavior.  Liam sought refuge from his troubles with his father in the limited pleasures that were available to him  – alcohol and women in particular.  It may be that this hedonism also influenced Angelus’ personality.  The need for pleasure had assumed a far greater importance for Liam than would be the norm.  If, as suggested by Darla in “the Prodigal” ,Angelus continued to be troubled by the memories of his father, he may equally have sought to forget by concentrating on pleasure.  Of course, as a vampire, what constituted pleasure for him would have been very different to the forms of enjoyment Liam sought out.  What mattered for Angelus was the hunt and the kill.

And here we come to yet another interesting connection between Liam and Angelus.   As we have already seen, Angelus did not go for the simple kill.  Nor was he content with mere brutality in the form of branding irons and railway spikes.  While he obviously enjoyed inflicting pain the only occasion we saw him resort to such direct methods was in “Becoming 2” when he was principally interested in obtaining information.  His preferred methodology was more refined than that and involved the infliction of psychological torture: raising fear within the victim.  And this was something that he took considerable pains over.  It involved imagination, careful planning and precise execution.  The classic example is, of course, the way he left Jenny’s body for Giles to find.  The champagne, the note, the flowers and just the right romantic aria from Puccini playing in the background.  It was the work of an artist.  And here I recall how Penn described his own work in “Somnambulist”:

“First class killer?  An Artist?  A bold re-interpreter of the form?”

Penn, of course, learned at the feet of the Master and I do not think it is too much of a stretch to see his use of an artistic metaphor for killing as a reflection of Angelus’ own attitude to what he did.

We know about Angel’s interest in fine art and literature.  We know from “Helpless” what his idea of a good read is.  And everywhere he has lived he seems to have had a very tasteful collection of statues and paintings.  Angelus himself is a very skilled sketch artist and it is strongly implied in “She” that he had close connections with the artistic community in Paris in the mid-19th century.  It is in this context that I recall what Liam said to Darla in the ally in Galway before he was vamped:

Liam:  “I never been anywhere myself. Always wanted to see the world, but...”.

Darla:  “I could show you.”

Liam:  “Could you, then?”

Darla:  “Things you've never seen, never even heard of.”

Liam:  “Sounds exciting.”

Darla:  “It is. And frightening.”

Liam:  “I'm not afraid. Show me. Show me your world.”

It is not to hard to imagine Liam as a thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent young man with artistic sensibilities feeling trapped in an environment where he was unable to find any expression for them.  As a vampire he would have access to ready money (not hard to guess from where), be able to travel and move in circles where he would find a conventional outlet for his interests.  But in addition to that he may well have found a natural marriage between his intellectual and artistic tastes and his desires to kill in the form of his appreciation of the more refined forms of cruelty.

On this view, it is of course the basic drives of the vampire that predominate.  I have given examples where the human personality traits have been moulded and shaped so they suit the demon.  And that this is the nature of what happened can, I think, be illustrated by the way in which one particular personality trait not so much changed but replaced by its antithesis.  Liam, as a human, seemed to be a gregarious type.  Angelus was quite the opposite.  Witness the following conversation between the faux Angelus and Spike in “School Hard”:

Spike:  “I haven't seen you in the killing fields for an age.”

Angel:  “I'm not much for company.”

Spike:  “No, you never were.”

This solitary approach to killing may very well have been a product of his particular method of killing and the enjoyment he got from it.  Except for Darla and the odd pupil like Penn, whom he taught to imitate his methods,  he probably would have found other vampires would just have interfered with his pleasures.   Certainly, therefore, this seems to be one personality trait which is derived from the nature of the vampire and which has nothing to do with the human.

“Mocking God”

Of course I have to point out that none of these elements in Liam’s character – the hedonism, the thoughtfulness or the artistry – would have been unique.  I doubt therefore that they could account on their own for the intensity of Angelus’ killing spree.  The defining characteristic of the vampire is the basic desire to do evil.  This is what separates demon from a human and it is a distinction of key importance because it is the desire to do evil that is the key motivating factor in the demon.

In this context I would draw attention to two particular episodes.   As we have seen, in “Somnambulist” Angel recalls his former modus operandi.  One of the things he did was to “mark” his victims with a cross while they were still alive.  The purpose of this was to “mock God”.   Whether that was meant to signify that Vampires believe in a personal Deity is a moot point, although as supernatural creatures themselves scientific rationalism wouldn’t pose much of an obstacle to belief.    But I don’t think it is important here.  The importance of the action was that it represented an expression of the helplessness of “good” in the face of evil.  The cross was something that vampires feared.  By marking this symbol of goodness on his victims and then killing them Angelus was affirming the superiority of evil.  Hence he was mocking God.

Equally striking from this point of view was what he did to Drusilla.  In "Lie to Me" Angel referred to her as being an obsession of his.  In "Becoming I" we saw the sort of person that the human Drusilla was, demonstrably the pure and sweet and chaste girl  described by Angel in "Lie to Me".  Clearly what impelled Angelus to stalk her was not any sexual obsession with her.  Even though after “Innocence” he clearly enjoyed being with her he never showed that sort of feeling for her.  Rather I think that the need he felt was to corrupt her goodness.  That was certainly the suggestion  in "Becoming I" when he told her:

Angelus:  “Oh, hush, child. The Lord has a plan for all creatures, even a Devil child like you.”

Drusilla:  “A Devil?”

Angelus:  “Yes! You're a spawn of Satan. All the Hail Marys in the world aren't going to help. The Lord will use you and smite you down. He's like that.”

Drusilla:  “What can I do?”

Angelus:  “Fulfill his plan, child. Be evil. Just give in.”

Drusilla:  “No!  I want to be good.  I want to be pure.”

Angelus:  “We all do, at first. The world doesn't work that way.”

So, I think we can see in Angelus far more than just a creature who has appetites that he seeks to satisfy by killing in an entertaining manner.   He is in fact quite consciously and deliberately an agent of evil.  I think that this is an important point that should not be overlooked.


Angelus and Darla

Even a demon, though, can have can have "emotional attachments", at least to other demons.  Spike and Drusilla are a good example of this.  In "Surprise" the Judge referred to them in the following terms:

“You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.”

Whether Angelus ever felt this emotional need is an interesting question.  In "Surprise" and "Innocence" the Judge seemed to suggest not.  He felt he could burn Spike and Drusilla because their emotional attachments were a residue of humanity in them.  He couldn't burn Angelus because...

Judge:  “He is clean.”

Spike:  “Clean? You mean, he's...”

Judge:  “There's no humanity in him.”

As against that, in "the Prodigal" there is some stress on just how close Angelus and Darla were.  The way that she shepherded Angelus towards his first kill and the way he looked back at her for reassurance before completing it brought to mind almost a mother-child relationship.  This was the most meaningful look at what it is to be a “sire” in the Vampires’ world we have ever been given.  And certainly in "Five by Five" we see that he feels very “comfortable” with Darla.  When she gives him the gypsy girl he says:

"What would I do without you?"

Of course the full story of the relationship between Angelus and Darla has still to be told.  In “Angel” Darla suggested they were involved for “several generations”.  But there is no sign of her when we see him with Penn in the late 18th century and one might doubt whether she was with him in London in the 1860’s when he encountered Drusilla.   Nevertheless, contrary to "Innocence" the suggestion here is that Angelus was not too different from Spike in his capacity for affection.

The important point though it that this feeling is not, however, the same as romantic love in the sense that humans know the experience.  The Judge did not use “love” to describe what Spike and Drusilla felt for one another.  “Affection” is a much weaker term.  In particular a relationship between Vampires seems to lack some of the higher feelings we associate with love.   As I have already said, the great difference between the human soul and the demon soul is that the former has a basic instinct to do good.  In a relationship with another person this will mean a selfless desire to do what is good for the other person.  In a demon soul the only interest in a relationship can be what is in it for you in terms of satisfaction of your emotional needs.  Is it any wonder then that one of the key things defining the relationship between Spike and Drusilla is jealousy which is essentially a selfish feeling.   And Darla’s reaction in “Five by Five”  when she realized Angelus had been given a soul was interesting.  It was disgust and perhaps fear.  She seemed to show no concern whatsoever for the suffering of the unhappy Angelus under the weight of the soul’s sense of guilt.  Love in a vampire, therefore, seems to be an expression of some form of emotional need, no different in principle from the need to get back at his father felt by Penn in “Somnambulist.”


Angel and Angelus

It takes no great imagination to appreciate the horror it must be for Angel to share a body with a creature with the sort of instincts that Angelus has.  I would, however, ask you to spare a thought for poor old Angelus in all this.  What must it be like to share a body with Angel?  It’s not only the continual guilt about the crimes that Angelus committed.  Actions which should only have been for him happy memories are now the subject of reproaches.  Perhaps even worse was the fact that for over a hundred years of brooding he was without any outlet for the instincts and desires that were central to his being.  It would be as if Rembrandt had suddenly been turned into a quadriplegic.    As Angel himself observed in “the Dark Age”

“I've had a demon inside me for a couple hundred  years... just waitin' for a good fight.”

Angel’s good intentions were, of course,  an affirmation of the good in human beings that Angelus felt so impelled to reject.  As such they would themselves have been anathema to Angelus.  Nevertheless, the outlet his combat with demons would have provided for Angelus’ destructive instincts might actually prove to be a welcome relief to the demon.  The smirk as he carried out the cold blooded assassination of Russell Winters in “City of…” may very well derive from the satisfaction felt be the demon at the sight of violent death, even of another vampire.

Just how unbearable the curse made the situation for Angelus can perhaps be gleaned from his attitude to Buffy, even after it was lifted.  As I have already said I do not think that you can equate the sort of affection shared between vampires with  the genuine romantic love felt by Angel for Buffy.  Indeed love of that sort disgusts Angelus because it represents the “good”  higher feelings of which a human being is capable and which essentially differentiate them from vampires. But even after Angel’s soul was stripped from the vampire Angelus was stuck with the memory of those feelings which, given their importance to Angel, were clearly very strongly imprinted in him.  To add to this he may very well have felt a strong sexual attraction to Buffy.  For him this must have been a form of torture from which he could not escape.  And this, I think, is the key to understanding Angelus' actions during the last half of season 2. 

At one level he tried to maintain that he was merely using psychological warfare to defeat a particularly powerful opponent.  This was certainly the conclusion that Giles reached when he referred to Angelus’ tactics in “Passion”:

“Uh, uh, look, it's-it's classic battle strategy to throw one's opponent off his game. He-he-he's just trying to provoke you…uh, to taunt you, to, to goad you into, uh, some mishap of some sort.”

But that never made sense.  Angelus could easily have killed Buffy while she slept at the beginning of “Passion”.  He would not then have needed to throw her off her game.  I think Angelus gave away the truth when he said:

“She made me feel like a human being. That's not the kind of thing you just forgive.”

Killing Buffy would have removed her as a physical threat.  But that would not have helped remove the memories of what she and Angel had together.  That is what Angelus had to do and I think that is what the stalking was intended to achieve.  Stalking is a way of taking control of a victim - dominating her life and dictating how she lives it.  This seemed to be the intention behind Angelus' actions.  Leaving drawings, deliveries of the roses, tormenting and killing her friends.  It seems to me that he intended to take control of Buffy's life as a way of proving to himself that he was the one in control rather than the one being controlled by the memories of feelings for Buffy left behind by Angel. 

But of course he miscalculated.  The harder he pushed the stronger Buffy became and the more willing she was to kill him.  Or perhaps it wasn't simply a miscalculation.  Perhaps his own fears and hatred of genuine human love, his own insecurities had by now warped his judgment.  It was Spike (a shrewd enough judge of these things) who suggested that he wasn't playing with the full deck.

In any event the climax to his campaign came in  "Passion".  When he killed Jenny he wasn't remotely interested in Giles.  It was Buffy's reaction he wanted to watch and the fact that afterwards he barely escaped from her with his life may well have convinced him that stalking her was just not helping.  This is why he tried to awaken Acathla.  I think he would ordinarily have missed this world as much a Spike.  He was "one happy guy" killing, torturing and maiming.  But with Buffy still free from him he could not escape the haunting memories of love and seeing Buffy sucked into Hell with the rest of the World was the only thing left for him to try to make those memories go away.  That is why when he said to Acathla

            “You will be free.”

he added as he drew the blade of a knife across the palm of his hand

            “And so will we all.”