Throughout The Originals, Marcel rejects Klaus calling him by his full name, Marcellus, because it takes away the power that he worked hard to earn for himself. At the beginning of The Originals season 1, Marcel built an empire in New Orleans, where he and his vampires had control of the witches, and magic was banned. Since witches are the only real threat to vampires, he had complete authority over the city. When Klaus returned, Marcel was happy to see him at first, until it became clear that Klaus wanted ownership of New Orleans.
As Klaus worked to persuade Marcel to go along with his plans, he reminded Marcel of how he rescued him from a brutal life. As a child, Marcel was a slave, and even though his father was the Governor of Louisiana, it didn’t save him or his mother from harsh treatment. Klaus came across Marcel throwing an apple at a slave overseer right after being whipped, and was impressed at his bravery. And so, Klaus adopted him and gave him the name Marcellus, meaning “little warrior.” However, the Mikaelson family did not prove to be the safe haven that it appeared to be, as Marcel was constantly caught between sibling fights and rivalries, even into adulthood.
Marcel hates when Klaus or his siblings refer to him as Marcellus, because it reminds him of the powerlessness that he felt during his childhood, not to mention being part of the Mikaelson family. As a child, Marcel had to depend on Klaus after losing his own mother, and enduring the tortures of slavery. When he grew up and became a vampire, he was still weaker than Klaus and the other Originals, so he was at the mercy of their rash decisions and disputes. They knew him as Klaus’ ward Marcellus, but he could reclaim his strength as Marcel the king of New Orleans.
When he was young, Marcel was at the mercy of the Governor of Louisiana as well as the slave owners on the plantation. Although “little warrior” was fitting for his act of rebellion, the name Marcellus became stifling as he grew up. He associated it with whipping and abuse, the pain of losing his mother, and constant danger. It reminded him of a time when he was just a boy, with nothing of his own except the name which was given to him by someone else. Once he was living his own life, and had control of New Orleans as Marcel, he forged a new identity separate from that of Marcellus the former slave. He could finally put distance between himself and those painful memories.
As Marcel grew older, the name Marcellus continued to cast a shadow. He felt in debt to Klaus for saving him, and later for turning him into a vampire, which Klaus took full advantage of. He wanted Marcel to idolize him, so he became jealous and acted out when Marcel took to Elijah. As an adult and a vampire, Marcel became stronger, but the virtually invincible Mikaelsons never treated him as an equal. The meaning “little warrior” became condescending, as if he was just a protégé and could be nothing more, and that he must obey Klaus. As Marcel, he was no longer second to the Originals; he was in charge of his own destiny, had young vampires that relied on him, and came into his own power in a way that he could never have done as Marcellus.
Marcel created his own identity in The Originals, escaping from the pain of his full name and rivaling the force of the Mikaelson siblings. After all he had been through, it's fitting that he made a life for himself and became king of his domain. As the franchise progresses, it is worth looking at what he does with his strength and influence, and how his priorities shift. Even though he is independent, the Mikaelson family proves difficult to ignore, especially when they seek power just as much as he does.