Last updated
R. M. Renfield
Dracula character
Renfield 1931.jpg
Dwight Frye as Renfield in Dracula (1931)
Created by Bram Stoker
Portrayed by Alexander Granach (Nosferatu (1922 film)
Dwight Frye (Dracula (1931 English-language film))
Pablo Álvarez Rubio (Dracula (1931 Spanish-language film))
Klaus Kinski (Count Dracula (1970 film))
Jack Shepherd (Count Dracula (1977 film))
Roland Topor ( Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979 English/German-language film))
Tom Waits ( Bram Stoker's Dracula )
Peter MacNicol ( Dracula: Dead and Loving It )
Nonso Anozie (Dracula (TV series))
Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful (TV series))
NicknameThe Fly Patient, The Fly Man, [1] The Zoophagous Patient
Nationality British

R. M. Renfield is a fictional character that appears in Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula . [2]


In the novel

A description of Renfield from the novel:

R. M. Renfield, aetat 59. Sanguine temperament, great physical strength, morbidly excitable, periods of gloom, ending in some fixed idea which I cannot make out. I presume that the sanguine temperament itself and the disturbing influence end in a mentally-accomplished finish, a possibly dangerous man, probably dangerous if unselfish. In selfish men, caution is as secure an armour for their foes as for themselves. What I think of on this point is, when self is the fixed point the centripetal force is balanced with the centrifugal. When duty, a cause, etc., is the fixed point, the latter force is paramount, and only accident or a series of accidents can balance it. — From Dr. John Seward's journal

Renfield is an inmate at the lunatic asylum overseen by Dr. John Seward. He is thought to suffer from delusions which compel him to eat living creatures in the hope of obtaining their life-force for himself. Later Renfield's own testimony reveals that Dracula would send him insects, which he begins consuming. He starts with flies, the death's-head moth, [3] then develops a scheme of feeding the flies to spiders, and the spiders to birds, in order to accumulate more and more life. When denied a cat to accommodate the birds, he eats the birds himself. He also changes his ideas to accommodate Mina Harker by quickly eating all flies and stating that it was an old habit. Doctor John Seward diagnoses him as a "zoophagous maniac", or life-consuming madman. Later Renfield builds up his own courage to harm Dr. Seward, acquiring a knife and cutting his arm; as Seward's blood drips from his hand, Renfield licks it off the floor. [4]

During the course of the novel, the role of Renfield as a patient allows the reader to understand his behavior from the perspective of a psychologist. Through Renfield's demented mind, the reader learns the nature of a vampirism that is eventually revealed to be under the influence of Count Dracula; Renfield attempts to escape from the hospital multiple times to meet him. [5] The vampire, whose abilities include control over animals such as rats, bats and spiders, comes to Renfield with an offer: if Renfield worships him, he promises to make him immortal by providing an endless supply of insects and rats, as Renfield believes that blood is the source of life.

However, when confronted by Mina Harker, the object of Dracula's obsession, Renfield suffers an attack of conscience and begs her to flee from his master's grasp. Consumed by his desire to keep Mina safe, he begs Seward and the others to allow him to leave lest he feel guilty for her fate. When Seward denies his request, Renfield tells the vampire hunters that "[he] warned them!" When Dracula returns that night, Renfield is again seized by his conscience. He remembers hearing that madmen have unnatural strength, and so attempts to fight Dracula. Renfield's strength leaves him after looking into Dracula's eyes, and Dracula throws him to the floor, severely injuring him.

The vampire hunters enter the room shortly afterward, and through an emergency surgery Van Helsing manages to prolong Renfield's life. Renfield tells how Dracula convinced him to invite Dracula in, detailing how Dracula entered the home and went after Mina. They leave him lying on the floor to rescue her. During the party's confrontation with Dracula in Mina's room, they manage to repel him with their crucifixes and wafers of sacramental bread, forcing him to flee the room. However, Dracula flees into other rooms and destroys their records, then back into Renfield's room to break his neck. "When Dr. Van Helsing and Dr. Seward had come back from seeing poor Renfield, we went gravely into what was to be done. First, Dr. Seward told us that when he and Dr. Van Helsing had gone down to the room below they had found Renfield lying on the floor, all in a heap. His face was all bruised and crushed in, and the bones of the neck were broken."

Influence in psychology

The character Renfield has influenced the study of real-life behavior in psychiatric patients suffering from an obsession with drinking blood. The term Renfield syndrome was coined by psychologist Richard Noll in 1992, originally as a joke term, to describe clinical vampirism. Correspondingly, there is also a "vampire personality disorder" (VPD); a diagnosis for clinical vampirism, used for the behavioral profiling of serial killers compelled by bloodlust and for patients who act out violent vampiric fantasies, [6] albeit, this diagnosis is not recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The effects of Renfield syndrome follows the pathology of the character in the novel consisting of several stages. Initially the patient exhibits zoophagia, a compulsion to eat insects, or to eat live animals or drink their blood. As the condition worsens, the behavior grows more and more deviant, culminating in a compulsion to drink another person's blood in an act described as True-Vampirism, including intentionally harming another individual for that purpose — the same behavior Renfield is seen exhibiting in the novel.

In other media

On screen

In literature

Related Research Articles

<i>Dracula</i> 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Abraham Van Helsing fictional character created by Bram Stoker

Professor Abraham Van Helsing, a fictional character from the 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula, is an aged polymath Dutch doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: "MD, D.Ph., D.Litt., etc.", indicating a wealth of experience, education and expertise. The character is best known throughout many adaptations of the story as a vampire hunter and the archenemy of Count Dracula.

<i>Dracula: Dead and Loving It</i> 1995 satirical comedy horror film by Mel Brooks

Dracula: Dead and Loving It is a 1995 satirical comedy horror film directed by Mel Brooks and starring Leslie Nielsen. It is a spoof of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula and of some of the films it spawned.

<i>Dracula</i> (1931 English-language film) 1931 American English-language horror film directed by Tod Browning

Dracula is a 1931 American pre-Code supernatural horror film directed and co-produced by Tod Browning from a screenplay written by Garrett Fort. It is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is adapted from the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The film stars Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, a vampire who emigrates from Transylvania to England and preys upon the blood of living victims, including a young man's fiancée.

<i>Dracula</i> (1979 film) 1979 American/British horror film by John Badham

Dracula is a 1979 British-American dark romantic horror film directed by John Badham. The film starred Frank Langella in the title role as well as Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence and Kate Nelligan.

Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker is a fictional character in Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula.

Lucy Westenra character from Bram Stokers Dracula

Lucy Westenra is a fictional character in the novel Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker. The 19-year-old daughter of a wealthy family, she is Mina's best friend and Dracula's first English victim. She subsequently transforms into a vampire and is eventually destroyed.

<i>Dracula, the Musical</i> musical

Dracula, the Musical is a musical based on the original Victorian novel by Bram Stoker. The score is by Frank Wildhorn, with lyrics and book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton.

Jonathan Harker Fictional character created by Bram Stoker

Jonathan Harker is a fictional character and one of the main protagonists of Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. His journey to Transylvania and encounter with the vampire Count Dracula and his Brides at Castle Dracula constitutes the dramatic opening scenes in the novel and most of the film adaptations. Stoker appropriated the surname from his friend Joseph Cunningham Harker (1855-1920), a set designer at the Lyceum Theatre and father of actor William Gordon Harker (1885-1967) as well as great-grandfather of actress Polly Adams, whose actress-daughters Susannah Harker and Caroline Harker adopted the Harker surname for their stage names.

<i>Count Dracula</i> (1970 film) 1970 film

Count Dracula is a 1969 Spanish-Italian-German-British horror film, directed by Jesús Franco and starring Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski. It was based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

John Seward Fictional character appearing in Bram Stokers 1897 novel Dracula.

John "Jack" Seward, M.D. is a fictional character appearing in Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula.

Arthur Holmwood character from Bram Stokers Dracula

Arthur "Art" Holmwood is a fictional character of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.

"Dracula" is a video-taped television play adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, part of the series Mystery and Imagination. Denholm Elliott played Count Dracula with Susan George as Lucy Weston.

<i>Count Dracula</i> (1977 film) 1977 television film directed by Philip Saville

Count Dracula is a British television adaptation of the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Produced by the BBC, it first aired on BBC 2 on 22 December 1977. It is among the more faithful of the many adaptations of the original book. Directed by Philip Saville from a screenplay by Gerald Savory, it stars Louis Jourdan as Count Dracula and Frank Finlay as Professor Van Helsing.

Count Dracula Title character of Bram Stokers 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula

Count Dracula is the title character of Bram Stoker's 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula. He is considered to be both the prototypical and the archetypal vampire in subsequent works of fiction. He is also depicted in the novel to be the origin of werewolf legends. Some aspects of the character are believed to have been inspired by the 15th-century Wallachian Prince Vlad the Impaler, who was also known as Dracula, and Sir Henry Irving, an actor for whom Stoker was a personal assistant.

Dracula is a television adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, Dracula, produced by Granada Television for WGBH Boston and BBC Wales in 2006. It was written by Stewart Harcourt and directed by Bill Eagles.

<i>Dracula</i> (1924 play) 1924 stage play

Dracula is a stage play written by the Irish actor and playwright Hamilton Deane in 1924, then revised by the American writer John L. Balderston in 1927. It was the first authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. After touring in England, the original version of the play appeared at London's Little Theatre in July 1927, where it was seen by the American producer Horace Liveright. Liveright asked Balderston to revise the play for a Broadway production that opened at the Fulton Theatre in October 1927. This production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role.

Dracula is an adaptation, first published in 1996, by American playwright Steven Dietz of Bram Stoker's novel by the same name. Though it has never run on Broadway, the author lists it among his most financially successful works, and it is frequently performed near Halloween in regional and community theaters. Closely following the plot of the novel, the play chronicles Count Dracula's journey to England, his stalking of two young women, and his pursuit and eventual defeat by the heroines' suitors and their associates.

<i>Dracula: A Chamber Musical</i> musical

Dracula: A Chamber Musical is a 1997 Canadian musical adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. The book and lyrics are by Richard Ouzounian and the music and orchestration are by Marek Norman. After premiering at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1997, Dracula in 1999 became the first Canadian musical to be staged at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Dracula: the Musical is a Swedish musical based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker produced in 2010. It was originally a theatre production meant for ten performances but due to the massive popularity extra performances were added and the musical was turned into a film, given a limited release on DVD. The film was put together by editing several performances of the musical and a filming session for closeups. The musical was written by Lisa Linder and directed by Martin Geijer. Music was composed by Christer Johansson and Jacob Mülrad.


  1. Bram Stoker's Notes on Dracula. p. 282.
  2. Dracula. SparkNotes; Character list.
  3. Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 21, Dr. Seward's Diary, 3 October. p. 400. Just as he used to send in the flies when the sun was shining. Great big fat ones with steel and sapphire on their wings. And big moths, in the night, with skull and cross-bones on their backs.’ Van Helsing nodded to him as he whispered to me un-consciously, ‘The Acherontia Atropos of the Sphinges, what you call the ‘Death’s-head Moth’?CS1 maint: location (link)
  4. Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). Ch 11, Dr. Seward's Diary, 17 September. p. 202.CS1 maint: location (link)
  5. Stoker, Bram. Dracula (PDF). pp. 147, 156.
  6. Ramsland, Katherine. "Vampire Personality Disorder". Psychology Today. Retrieved 1 November 2015. For The Science of Vampires, I invented a diagnosis as well. I called it vampire personality disorder (VPD). I included clinical vampires but also killers compelled by bloodlust and people who exploit the vampire image to act out fantasy scenarios in a way that harms others.
  7. Dracula. Tod Browning. Universal Pictures, 1931. Film.
  8. Drácula. George Melford. Universal Pictures, 1931. Film.
  9. Count Dracula. Jesús Franco. Filmar Compagnia Cinematograf, Roma, 1970. Film.
  10. Count Dracula. Philip Saville. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1977. Film.
  11. Dracula. John Badham. Universal Pictures, 1979. Film.
  12. Bram Stoker's Dracula. Francis Ford Coppola. American Zoetrope, 1992. Film.
  13. Dracula: Dead and Loving It. Mel Brooks. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1995. Film.
  14. Nonso Anozie Bio NBC
  15. Kroll, Justin (November 20, 2019). "Dexter Fletcher to Direct a Movie About Dracula's Henchman for Universal (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  17. Orquiola, John (4 January 2020). "Netflix's Dracula: Cast & Character Guide". Screen Rant . Retrieved 4 January 2020.