Four-Temperament Ensemble

"Splinter taught them to be ninja teens.
Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines.
Raphael is cool but rude, Michelangelo is a party dude!"

There are many ways to make a group of people diverse without giving them overly specialized roles within an ensemble. One way is through matching personality types according to a wacky ancient pseudoscience. The Four Temperaments (also called the "four humors") was a theory that behavior was caused by concentrations of body fluids — the "humors" of classical medicine: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.

A temporary imbalance would create an illness: too much blood caused a fever, too much yellow bile caused a cough, too much black bile caused depression, and too much phlegm caused a cold. A permanent imbalance led to a person having a certain type of intentions, behavior, and personality. Though this theory has long since been discredited from a scientific standpoint, the general idea still remains and the theory is still used for personality profiling. An ensemble based on these four humors can make the cast diverse without actually changing the roles of the characters in the story.

The four temperament system was an interesting one, but flawed. Several tests noticed people that did not conform to any of the behavior types, so a neutral temperament was created. Along with a sampling of related tropes, the five temperaments (humors) are:

  • Sanguine (blood): Extroverted, Emotional, and People-oriented
    • Key Strengths: Friendly, Cheerful, Energetic, Compassionate, Loves people, Forgiving, Confident, Charming, Talkative, an excellent Comedian or Sailor, and lastly, just plain fun. :)
    • Key Weaknessses: Weak-willed, Egotistical, Emotionally unstable, Gullible, Too people-pleasing, Shallow, Scatterbrained, Disorganized, Self-absorbed, Too talkative, Hyperactive and Frivolous at times.
    • Expressive high, responsive high; response's delay short, duration short.
    • The Inspired Influencer of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of spring and the (hot and moist) air element, (plus an exclusive manipulation over Lightning).
    • Temperaments corresponding to the four divisions of the day: Morning
    • In a person's life, it corresponds to young childhood (roughly ages 0-13).
    • Will often correspond with the Optimist when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as the Yandere.
    • Archetypal color: Gold, all shades of Pink or Aqua (the colors of the Sky).

  • Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted, Unemotional, and Task-oriented
    • Key Strengths: Takes the lead, Independent, Hard worker, Goal-oriented, Strong-willed, Practical, Confident, Loves a challenge, Passionate, Thrives under criticism, Determined, an excellent Strongman/woman of the team or Drill Sergeant at the most extreme.
    • Key Weaknesses: Hot-tempered, Can be cruel, Rebellious, Stubborn, Harsh, Insensitive, Arrogant, Rude, Workaholic, Often Dramatic, Bossy, can become psychotic in overbearing situations, Vindictive.
    • Expressive high, responsive low; response's delay short, duration long.
    • The Dominant of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of summer and the (hot and dry) fire element, (plus an exclusive manipulation over Solar power).
    • Temperaments corresponding to the four divisions of the day: Afternoon
    • In a person's life, it corresponds with adolescence and young adulthood (roughly ages 13-35).
    • Will often correspond with the Realist when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as the Tsundere.
    • Archetypal color: Yellow, all shades of Red or Orange (the colors of a Volcano).

  • Melancholic (black bile): Introverted, Emotional, and Task-oriented
    • Key Strengths: Deep, Thoughtful, Sensitive, Artistic, Perfectionist, Faithful to a fault, Self-sacrificing, an excellent Leader or Medic, Analytical, Organized, Practical, Detailed, Elegant (in the more dignified ways), An effective manipulator of people.
    • Key Weaknesses: Pessimistic, Moody, Revengeful, Critical, Depressed, Impractical (yes, both practical and impractical), Insecure, Bashful, Resentful, and Has overly high expectations, Snobbish, Very paranoid, likes to be regarded formally such as Mr/Mrs.
    • Expressive low, responsive low; response's delay long, duration long.
    • The Cautious and Conscientious of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of autumn and the (cool and dry) earth element, (plus an exclusive manipulation over Metal).
    • Temperaments corresponding to the four divisions of the day: Evening
    • In a person's life, it corresponds to middle-aged adulthood (roughly ages 35-65).
    • Will often correspond with The Cynic when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as a pure Kuudere.
    • Archetypal color: Navy Blue, Dark Purple, Olive Green, all shades of Brown or Black (the colors of the Underground).

  • Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted, Unemotional, and People-oriented
    • Key Strengths: A real sweetheart, Dependable, Easygoing, Patient, Accommodating, Pleasant, Witty, Gentle, Calm, and Forgiving, Quiet and Stealthy, an excellent Assistant or Spy, A deep Poker-face, Elegant (in the more simpler ways), a Good Listener, Sympathetic.
    • Key Weaknesses: Compromising, Shy and Docile, Indecisive, Slacker, Lazy, Slow, Stubborn, Too indifferent, Too yielding,Teasing.
    • Expressive low, responsive high; response's delay long, duration short.
    • The Support and Steadiness of DISC.
    • Corresponds to the season of winter and the (cool and moist) water element. (However, water also corresponds to melancholic characters that have control over ice.) (plus an exclusive manipulation over Blood)
    • Temperaments corresponding to the four divisions of the day: Night
    • In a person's life, it corresponds to older adulthood (roughly ages 65 and up).
    • Will often correspond with the Apathetic or the Conflicted when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as a pure Dandere.
    • Archetypal color: Teal, Green, White, all shades of Blue or Black (the colors of the Ocean).

  • Leukine (white blood cells) note : Ambiverted and dually-oriented. The "central" temperament that was created for those who didn't have one of the four clearly-established temperaments. This type of character can generally be described as middle-of-the-road and neutral. Generally calm, rational, quiet, and reliable. Usually confused with the phlegmatic, but this temperament tends toward either true apathy or rotating among nearly all the world's emotions (nothing too explosive or extreme) at a smooth, gradual rate. In a positive light, having more than one temperament or balanced among temperaments; but in a negative light, a non-temperament, The Generic Guy, and a Standardized Leader. Usually reserved for protagonists, The Hero or other leaders when they are neither Hot-Blooded nor emotionless characters, and somewhat more independent but not as introverted.
    • Expressive moderate, responsive moderate; response's delay variable, duration variable.
    • Will often correspond with the Conflicted or the Apathetic when in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Archetypal color: White or Gray.

Some sets of four form a "Combo Ensemble", blending two adjacent temperaments each based on a common aspect. These temperament combos also form the basis for the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator.

  • Sanguine and Choleric (the Artisan): Extroverted and dually-oriented. On the positive side, the most brave, passionate, energetic, and often, though not always, tactical (as "Artisan" suggests) of the temperament combos. But on the negative side, the most impulsive and emotional, and can cause the most drama to happen. Can range from Real Man (especially as The Munchkin), to genki Blood Knight if viewed in a negative light, and almost always highly selfish. Characters on the side of good with this combo tend to be Hotblooded, with some Idiot Hero tendencies. Also seems to be popular for Shonen Anime heroes.
    • Expressive high, responsive moderate; response's delay short, duration variable.
    • Corresponds to the double-element lightning (air + fire).
    • Often the Realist and/or the Optimist in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Archetypical color: Red, Gold, or Crimson (colors of wealth/royalty)

  • Choleric and Melancholic (the Rational): Ambiverted and task-oriented. The temperament combo most calculative (as "Rational" suggests), very decisive, and insistent on things being in line with the Lawful Good. Especially good in instructing with authority and preventing bad influences over or hindrances against the project at hand, as well as having things calculated so that a decision can be made at a decent speed. On the flip side, quite prone to greed, gluttony, hypocrisy, manipulation, and a judgmental, Holier Than Thou demeanor. Less polite and more devious than s/he may appear to be. Can be a Mood-Swinger and suspect and/or resent sympathy from anyone else. Tendency less to forgive and more to be harsh in blaming others. Often can be The Smart Guy in terms of common sense and craftiness; also can be Insufferable Genius. The temperament combo most susceptible to being a Grumpy Bear, Tsundere, Rules Lawyer, Knight in Sour Armor, relentless leader-like version of Neat Freak, or a Knight Templar. A villainous extreme would be such things as Straw Hypocrite and The Caligula. For heroes, the I Work Alone factor is common, coupled with a hidden Good Is Not Nice that eventually slips out.

  • Melancholic and Phlegmatic (the Idealist): Introverted and dually-oriented. The most sensitive, deep-feeling, mannerly temperament combo and, as "Idealist" suggests, the most focused on the abstract and character ideals. Also very intuitive and focuses on following the rules and seeing justice and goodness done, being the community's moral compass. On the negative side, it is the most shy, timid, neurotic, and prone to harbor hurt feelings, being extremely prone to be Innocently Insensitive. Has some particular expectations of others, but in most common cases too timid to express them. May brood at times; tends to be harsh in blaming the self and others. Often The Smart Guy or the Adorkable. Can range from bookish Nice Guy to Kuudere/Sugar and Ice Personality. On The Hero's side, Beware the Nice Ones (if not a Death Glare) is almost always a factor.
    • Expressive low, responsive moderate; response's delay long, duration variable.
    • Corresponds to the double-element plant (earth + water).
    • Usually the Conflicted in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Archetypical color: Black, all shades of Green or Turquoise (down-to-earth colors)

  • Phlegmatic and Sanguine (the Guardian): Ambiverted and people-oriented. The temperament combo that thrives most on relationships with other people and is the most emotionally strong for other people. Usually the most easygoing and least judgmental; and, as "Guardian" suggests, supportive and helpful at guarding a team or family from falling apart. On the flip side, often overly tolerant and/or permissive; also the most prone to laziness (either The Slacker or Brilliant but Lazy), being often sluggish about any task that requires spending a bunch of mental energy. Often evaluates other people in a very optimistic light, an overlap of The Pollyanna and the Wide-Eyed Idealist (distinct from the above "Idealist"). Usually the diametric opposite of an Insufferable Genius or Neat Freak. Taken to an extreme, can be a Cloud Cuckoolander.
    • Expressive moderate, responsive high; response's delay variable, duration short.
    • Corresponds to the double-element ice/snow (water + air).
    • Often the Conflicted, but usually the Realist in a Four Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Archetypical Color: Lavender, White, all shades of Aqua or Pink (colors of youthfulness)

Historically in plays, there was a whole genre: Comedy of Humors, where the impetus of the story is the sudden banding of these opposing types. This is in contrast to the Comedy of Errors, where the story is driven by the events and situations.

Sometimes a Five-Man Band will also be a Four (or often Five) Temperament Ensemble, but in many cases, they're mutually exclusive. There is also some overlap with Power Trio scenarios: usually The Kirk is choleric, The McCoy is sanguine, and The Spock is melancholic. In these cases, the phlegmatic role will be filled by a prominent supporting character, who is still clearly outside of the triad. They are also similar to the four Personality Blood Types, and are sometimes also a Four Element Ensemble.

If this type of personality dynamic is used for a Five-Man Band, then there are — aside from The Hero as leukine and The Chick as phlegmatic — two very common sets: either The Lancer (choleric), The Smart Guy (melancholic), and The Big Guy (sanguine); or The Lancer (sanguine), The Smart Guy (choleric), and The Big Guy (melancholic). RPGs in particular like to use a simplification of the second type.

See also Cast Calculus for the overarching archetypes in this and differently numbered ensembles. Here is an Image Archive for this trope. Additionally, Pseudolonewolf (of MARDEK fame) has a page that goes into great detail on the four temperaments, here, and The Other Wiki offers its information here. For another way to split up a group of four, see Four Philosophy Ensemble.


    open/close all folders 

    Eastern European Animation 
  • 38 Parrots:
    • Sanguine: Monkey.
    • Choleric: Parrot.
    • Melancholic: Elephant.
    • Phlegmatic: Python.

    Fan Fic 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, the six protagonists are organized like this.
  • In the Death Note fic The End Is Near: Mello (sanguine), Light (choleric), L (melancholic), and Matt (phlegmatic).
  • Ed Wood, despite being a biopic, gives us four well-defined examples: Ed (sanguine), Dolores (choleric), Bela (melancholic), and Bunny (phlegmatic).
  • Roy's subordinates in the Elemental Chess Trilogy have similar assignations to those given in canon, but not identical. According to here: Havoc (sanguine), Breda (choleric), Fuery (phlegmatic), and Falman (leukine).
  • In Point Of Succession Matt (sanguine), Light (choleric), Watari (phlegmatic), and L and Near (melancholic).
  • The Elite Four of Pokeumans:
    • Sanguine: William
    • Choleric: Zeke
    • Melancholic: Dustin
    • Phlegmatic: Rikuto
  • In Nerve Damage this is how Shirou's squad of Servants is set up (including himself).
    • Leukine: Shirou
    • Choleric: Alter
    • Phlegmatic: Lily
    • Sanguine: Nero
    • Melancholic: Saber
  • In the Bleach fanfic Phases of the Moon and its sequel Chasing the Moon.
  • In Necessary To Win, the Atago family is this.
    • Choleric: Hiroe
    • Sanguine: Kinue
    • Melancholic: Hiroko.
    • Phlegmatic: Masae.

    Multiple Media 
The Hidden Dreams series of posters by ChrisConsani have united Elvis Presley, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic, respectively.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The main characters in Peanuts seem to fall into this;
    • Charlie Brown (melancholic)
    • Linus (phlegmatic)
    • Sally (sanguine)
    • Lucy (choleric)
    • Snoopy and Woodstock (Leukine)
    • Peppermint Patty (Sanguine/Choleric)
    • Marcie (Melancholic/Phlegmatic)
    • Schroeder (Choleric/Melancholic)
    • Franklin (Phlegmatic/Sanguine)
  • In Pearls Before Swine: Pig (sanguine), Rat (choleric), Goat (melancholic), and Zebra (phlegmatic).
  • Get Fuzzy:
    • Sanguine: Satchel
    • Choleric: Bucky
    • Melancholic: Rob
    • Phlegmatic: Most recurring characters
  • Blondie:
    • Bumstead family: Dagwood Bumstead (melancholic), Blondie Boopadoop-Bumstead (sanguine), Alexander Bumstead (choleric), Cookie Bumstead (phlegmatic/sanguine), Daisy the dog (leukine).
    • Other characters: Julius Caesar Dithers (choleric), Herbert Woodley (phlegmatic), Tootsie Woodley (sanguine).

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Intentionally invoked in Promethean: The Created. The five Lineages of Prometheans are Frankensteins (choleric), Tammuz (melancholic), Galateids (sanguine), Osirans (phlegmatic), and Ulgan (associated with the "humor" of ectoplasm.) The character's balance of humors is actually an important gameplay point.
    • The Unfleshed, introduced as a full Lineage in the second edition core, are associated with the "humor" of oil.
  • Also invoked in Tabletop Game/Tribe8 with the monstrous Z'Bri, whose 4 types are named after the four humors (of the old model): Koleris, Flemis, Sangis, and Melanis.
  • Magic: The Gathering has this with the five Praetors of New Phyrexia:
  • While FATAL does have a humors system, there is no rule forcing your party to be a Four-Temperament Ensemble. Indeed, this would actively contradict the obsessive randomisation inherent to the FATAL system.
  • In Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, appropriately enough, the four gods of Chaos each represent an emotion and mindset. Khorne (the god of anger and bloodshed) is choleric; Slaanesh (god of passion and lust) is sanguine; Tzeentch (god of ambition and hope) is (ironically) melancholic; and Nurgle (god of despair and disease) is phlegmatic.

  • The final Hasse Och Tage revue Fröken Fleggmans mustasch is constructed around this trope, to the extent that the characters of the four person ensemble (if one excludes the pianist) are named accordingly. The quartet consists of:
  • In Mozart's opera Don Giovanni: Donna Elvira (choleric), Masetto (choleric/melancholic), Donna Anna (melancholic), Leporello (phlegmatic), Zerlina (sanguine), Ottavio (sanguine/choleric), and Commendatore/Don Pedro (leukine/phlegmatic).


Alternative Title(s):

Four Humour Ensemble, Five Temperament Ensemble, Four Humor Ensemble