Follow TV Tropes


Four-Temperament Ensemble

Go To
Clockwise from top left: Phlegmatic, Sanguine, Choleric, and Melancholic.

(One!) Leonardo's always in control
(Two!) The wiseguy is Michelangelo
(Three!) Donatello, he's the brains of the bunch
(Four!) Count on Raphael to throw the first punch!

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 an ancient proto-psychological theory. 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 has been a theory long-since 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.

One of the interesting factors in the Four Temperaments, is that there is no Leader — any one of them could be The Leader in the piece and defines the approach the team takes to the problem, while in a series the focus can switch back and forth to develop characters separately — see A Day in the Limelight. Rather than meeting through coincidence or brought together in the first episode, these four are more likely to be long-term friends or family from the start. There may be a fifth person hanging around occasionally but they're not really part of the team; they just add flavour or play the part of Mentor Archetype.

Along with a list of characteristics, the four temperaments are:

    Sanguine (blood) 
  • Extroverted, cheerful, and people-oriented. In general, they are more empathetic, encouraging, confident, communicative, humorous, compassionate, sentimental and affectionate. Sometimes, they are explosive, impulsive and even unpredictable.

    Choleric (yellow bile) 

    Melancholic (black bile) 
  • Introverted, brooding, and task-oriented. Normally highly sensitive and empathetic, but can be blunt. They are introspective, sensitive and very detailed people. They are usually those people who prefer to remain silent in their corner, reserved, suspicious, but very loyal and dedicated to the people they love.
    • Key Strengths: Detailed, conservative, analytical, organized, perfectionistic, faithful to a fault, highly moralistic (mostly), discreet will of stone, elegant (in the more dignified ways), often selfless and an excellent medic, lawyer or scientist.
      • In common with choleric: Excellent leader, practical, an effective organizer and punctual.
      • In common with phlegmatic: Polite, ethical to a fault, deep, thoughtful, sensitive and gentle.
    • Key Weaknesses: Rigid, too straight-laced, critical, pessimistic, moody, depressed, suspicious, cynical, has unrealistically high expectations, very paranoid.
    • Expressive low, responsive low; response's delay long, duration long.
    • The Contemplating Conscience of DISC and Myers–Briggs types generally: Guardians or Rationals of the introverted variety.
    • Will often correspond with the Cynic or the Realist when in a Four-Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the five main "Dere Types" qualify as Kuudere (Cool and Lovestruck) or a tendentially sad and depressed Dandere (shy and lovestruck). Tsundere can also qualify, especially Tragic Past Harsh type, in more blunt cases. In rarer, more unstable cases, may qualify as Yandere.
    • Oni type and Good Cop/Bad Cop: Stoic, aloof Blue Oni, either a cold "Bad Cop" with less affiliation (if not uninvolved), or a quieter and less optimistic "Good Cop".
    • Corresponding element, season, and division of a day: (cool and dry) earth, autumn, and evening.
    • In a person's life, it corresponds to middle-aged adulthood (roughly ages 35-65).
    • Organ: Spleen
    • The Yin-Yang Duo: Yin (Purple).
    • The Four Gods: White Tiger.
    • Planet or Satellite: Saturn and Mercury.
    • Western Zodiac Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.
    • Leadership type: Mastermind.
    • Personality Blood Type: A.
    • Apocalypse Horseman: Death.
    • Family Member: Son.
    • Cardinal Point: North.
    • Piloting Style: Plugger.
    • Typical Enneagram types: 1, 4, 6.
    • Character Description: Serious.
    • Basic Taste: Both Bitter And Sour.
    • Archetypal color: Navy blue, dark purple, olive or darker shades of green, all shades of brown or black (the colors of a cave or cavern).
    • Sense of Humor: Tragic.

    Phlegmatic (phlegm) 
  • Introverted, quiet, and people-oriented. Kind, self-controlled and empathetic towards others. They are a diplomatic person, who does not want to get into conflicts, who runs away from confusion. Sometimes impulsive and sensitive, they are also more malleable than others (To an extent). Doesn't like fights, is obedient, loyal, patient and fun. Usually assume passive postures in situations. They are homely, tolerant and very fond of being kind to people.note 

The four temperament system, while interesting, was seen as flawed even back then as some people did not fit with any of the presented humors, so a neutral temperament has been used. Originally derived in modern temperament theory from the once popular FIRO-B psychometric instrument, which included moderate scales. When the temperaments were mapped to it, the traditional Phlegmatic ended up moderate in both "expressive" (classic "extrovert" and "introvert") and "responsive" (classic "people vs task" focus) scales, and the low expressive high responsive area was labeled "Supine". While it shares many common elements with the Phlegmatic, the difference is that the Phlegmatic is this way from a lower energy reserve which leads them to take the path of least resistance (to either go with the flow and be agreeable, or to be stubborn and slow), while the Supine has an emotional energy that drives them to be reserved, but wanting of acceptance from others.

In alternative versions of the theory, the Phlegmatic kept in its old place, and the new temperament, here labeled as either "Leukine" (after leukocytes to match the body fluids theme) or "Eclectic", was considered the moderate one, sharing traits with all of the four temperaments (both "extrovert" and "introvert" and both "people-oriented" and "task-oriented").

In fiction this has been mostly reserved either for the lead character or more commonly for secondary characters (as for Four-Philosophy Ensemble, usually the Conflicted, but can also be Realist or Apathetic).

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.

They are similar to the four Personality Blood Types and are sometimes also a Classical Elements Ensemble. In the latter case, this typically overlaps with Elemental Personalities.

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 (older version with blends here), Eric B has a page that explains the five temperaments here, and The Other Wiki offers its information here. For another way to split up a group of four, see Four-Philosophy Ensemble. If you want to write such a group, see Write a Four-Temperament Ensemble.



    open/close all folders 

    Asian Animation 
  • Sab Jholmaal Hai: Bunny (Sanguine), Popat (Choleric), Zordaar (Melancholic), and Honey (Phlegmatic).
  • Space Jungle: Okki (Sanguine), Kao (Choleric), Roo (Melancholic), and Mo (Phlegmatic).
  • Zelly Go: Roro (Sanguine), Popo (Cholreric), Jojo (Melancolic), and Gogo (Supine).

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Black family in The Black Sheep Dog Series:
    • Sanguine: Sirius. One of the most popular boys in his school days, he's charming, reckless, and attracts attention wherever he goes.
    • Choleric: Walburga. Forceful and domineering, Walburga is well aware of her authority and is not afraid to exercise it. She is regarded by her children as the ruler of the household.
    • Melancholic: Orion. The acting head of the family who is duty bound to preserve its honour. He's quiet, reserved and emotionally closed-off.
    • Phlegmatic: Regulus. An obedient people pleaser who tries his best to keep the fragile peace between his brother and their parents.
  • Danganronpa: Memento Mori: Each survivor represents a temperament, with the Phlegmatic being the Only Sane Man Kaori, the Choleric being the Heroic Wannabe Daigo, the Melancholic being the Shrinking Violet Umiko, and the Sanguine being the Curious as a Monkey Souta.
  • Danganronpa: Komm Susser Tod: The survivors represent the four temperaments, with the Good Is Not Nice Reiji as the Choleric, the Mysterious Waif Asuka as the Melancholic, the Insufferable Genius Ukyo as the Phlegmatic, and the Genki Girl Chie as the Sanguine.
  • The four survivors of Danganronpa: Paradise Lost end up forming such an ensemble:
  • The four main anthropomorphic animal characters in the Sonic X fanfic Don't Keep Your Distance. Paint (Sanguine), Maxwell (Choleric), Jewel (Melancholic), and Arrowhead (Phlegmatic) seem almost designed after the four classical temperaments at times.
  • Barack and the White House Boiz, consisting of Barack Obama (Melancholic), Joe Biden (Sanguine), Bill Clinton (Phlegmatic), and Mitt Romney (Choleric) in the RPF Ice Ice Baby. Barack is cautious and thoughtful, and refuses to be divisive. Joe is the happy-go-lucky, loudmouth of the bunch, Bill is humble in his talents, quiet and always willing to lend a helping hand. Mitt stays plotting, and only wants what's best for him. The four boiz work together to stop the assassination of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • The four main characters of The Horsewomen Of Las Vegas:
    • Sanguine: Bayley: a vice cop with the LVPD. One of the few good cops in a department full of corruption, very easygoing unless crossed, geeky.
    • Choleric: Becky Lynch: a foot soldier for the Vegas Irish mafia. Tends to shoot first and ask questions later, likes being in charge but doesn't have the patience or long-term planning stratagem to be the boss.
    • Melancholic: Charlotte Flair: head of the Flair crime family. Cold-hearted, cerebral, keeps her emotions hidden when dealing with her contemporaries.
    • Phlegmatic: Sasha Banks: an emergency room nurse. Professional, good and nice with her patients, wants to help everyone, loyal to her friends.
  • The main cast of Iron Touch has this down to a tee, and almost all four of them are alliterative with their archetype to boot:
  • Junior Officers:
    • Phlegmatic: Lekona Lion, a relaxed, pseudo-father figure who loves to kick back with a beer.
    • Sanguine: Deborah Deer, a bubbly geek fresh out of high school who goes in with a smile and dreams of her one true love.
    • Choleric: Elekai Echidna, a serious ex-military brat who's always on his toes and shows extreme respect to authority.
    • Melancholic: Kitsune Fox, a timid housewife and mother of one who often doubts herself.
  • Juxtapose has Izuku and his friends in the General Education department forming this kind of ensemble.
    • Sanguine: Izuku is easy-going, friendly, and optimistic (if awkward). He's by far the most charming and magnetic person in the group who holds the others together.
    • Choleric: Kensei is excitable and twitchy. He's almost always enthusiastic about everything, whether it's building gadgets or breaking into a room he wants to get into.
    • Melancholic: Hitoshi is aloof and sarcastic with a biting wit. He often messes with his friends to get a rise out of them and is the most coldly pragmatic of the bunch.
    • Phlegmatic: Megumi is quiet and a voice of reason in the group. Her Touch Telepathy Quirk makes her The Empath who keeps tabs on everyone to keep their emotions from running over.
  • Miraculous: The Phoenix Rises
    • Melancholic: The brooding and aloof Morgan.
    • Phlegmatic: The easygoing and chill Max.
    • Sanguine: The hot-headed and bombastic Leon.
    • Choleric: The rules-obsessed Go-Getter Girl Kiku.
  • For The Night Unfurls, there's Kyril and his four apprentices:
  • The four main characters of Seth in the Pokécity:
    • Sanguine: May, the generally dorky and sweet girl who loves food, especially ramen.
    • Choleric: Misty, who is rather short-fused and yells a lot.
    • Melancholic: Tim Tim, who is also fairly hot-tempered, but usually more rational and logical, with a bit of a snarky streak.
    • Phlegmatic: Seth himself, the lazy and friendly (until he Took a Level in Jerkass) Extreme Doormat who serves as a Straight Man for Misty.
  • The titular team in The Simpsons: Team L.A.S.H.:
  • Luca's most prominent four classmates in The Story of Apollo, Daphne and Luca: An Italian Tragedy.
    • Choleric: Vincenzo. The hot-headed and brash Big Jerk on Campus.
    • Melancholic: Bianca. The cool-headed and aloof Deadpan Snarker.
    • Sanguine: Carlos. The cheeky and outgoing Gadfly.
    • Phlegmatic: Rosa. The gentle and romantic Ingenue.
      • Another example in Chapter 7 with the Underdogs plus Vincenzo, with calm and gentle Luca as the Phlegmatic, brash and hot-headed Alberto as the Choleric, upbeat and optimistic Giulia as the Sanguine and brooding and haughty Vincenzo as the Melancholic.

  • The Japanese zoological fortune-telling Doubutsu Uranai:
    • Earth group is Sanguine (self-centered, objective orientated); includes the Tiger, Wolf, Monkey, and Koala.
    • Sun group is Choleric (self-centered, situation orientated); includes the Pegasus, Elephant, Lion, and Cheetah.
    • Full Moon group is Melancholic (mindful of others, objective orientated); includes the Sheep and Panther.
    • New Moon group is Phlegmatic (mindful of others, situation orientated); includes the Fawn and Tanuki.
  • The four mascots for OffLimits cereal can be this:
    • Dash is Melancholic; she is associated with Chamberlain Coffee.
    • Zombie is Phlegmatic; they are associated with Pandan.
    • Spark is Sanguine; she is associated with Strawberry.
    • Flex is Choleric; he is associated with Cinnamon.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Blondie (1930): Dagwood Bumstead (melancholic), Blondie Boopadoop-Bumstead (phlegmatic/sanguine), Alexander Bumstead (choleric), Cookie Bumstead (sanguine), and Daisy (eclectic).
  • Dustin:
    • Dustin (Phlegmatic) — The apathetic and easy-going title character.
    • Ed (Melancholic) — The dour and practical father.
    • Helen (Sanguine) — The shallow and bubbly mother.
    • Megan (Choleric) — The brash and determined sister.
  • Peanuts: Charlie Brown (phlegmatic), Lucy van Pelt (choleric), Linus van Pelt (melancholic), Sally Brown (sanguine), and Snoopy (eclectic).
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Phoebe (phlegmatic), Marigold (sanguine), Dakota (choleric), and Max (melancholic).
  • Wallace the Brave:

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Dragon #338 introduced "imps of ill-humor," four fiends representing unbalanced emotions. Sanguine imps are always smiling and Affably Evil, choleric imps are perpetually-angry Berserkers, melancholic imps are Eeyores who don't see the point of fighting (but will backstab other creatures given the opportunity), and phlegmatic imps are Lazy Bums who only fight when there's minimum risk to themselves. Each imp type has a poisonous stinger that can inflict a similar humor imbalance upon victims, a condition that is permanent until cured with magic like remove disease or heal.
  • The five praetors of Magic: The Gathering: Elesh Norn is choleric, Jin-Gitaxias is melancholic, Sheoldred is phlegmatic, Urabrask is sanguine and Vorinclex is eclectic.
  • This is an explicit game mechanic in Promethean: The Created, where four out of the five main player Splats is full of a specific humour that affects their personality and powers (with the fifth, Ulgan, being filled with the "ectoplasmic" humor of spirits). There are even mechanical benefits to travelling with a full Four Temperament Ensemble.
  • 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. Nurgle god of despair and disease is phlegmatic.

Alternative Title(s): Four Humour Ensemble, Five Temperament Ensemble, Four Humor Ensemble