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Four-Temperament Ensemble

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

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 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. Can be more or less empathetic and sensitive towards others.


     Choleric (yellow bile) 

     Melancholic (black bile) 
  • Introverted, brooding, and task-oriented. Normally highly sensitive and empathetic, but can be blunt and harsh.
    • Key Strengths: Detailed, conservative, analytical, organized, perfectionistic, faithful to a fault, discreet will of stone, elegant (in the more dignified ways), selfless, an excellent medic or lawyer.
    • Key Weaknesses: Rigid, too straight-laced, critical, bashful, pessimistic, moody, depressed, impractical (yes, both practical and impractical), 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 I_T_.
    • Will often correspond with The Cynic, or the Realist Four-Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as a pure Kuudere (Cold and Blunt on the outside, but troubled on the inside).
    • Oni type and Good Cop/Bad Cop: Stoic, aloof Blue Oni, a cold "Bad Cop" with less involvement (if not a coward).
    • 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/Brain.
    • 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).
    • The Yin-Yang Duo: Yin (black).
    • The Four Gods: The Yellow Dragon.
    • Planet or Satellite: Saturn.
    • Western Zodiac Signs: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.
    • Leadership type: Mastermind.
    • Personality Blood Type: A
    • Apocalypse Horseman: Famine.
    • Family Member: Son.
    • Eating disorder: Anorexia.
    • Cardinal Point: West

     Phlegmatic (phlegm) 
  • Introverted, quiet, and people-oriented. Kind, sensitive, and empathetic towards others. note 
    • Key Strengths: Calm, humble, an excellent assistant, spy or librarian, discreet, flexible will of steel (flexible steel), elegant (in the simpler ways), thoughtful, patient, modest, a real sweetheart, accommodating, steady-paced, sympathetic, perceptive, faith in morality (and leading by example), very compassionate, assuming innocent until proven guilty, a good listener, open-minded, considerate, and empathetic to all.
      • In common with melancholic: Polite, reserved, gentle, ethical to a fault, dependable, mysterious, quiet and stealthy, a deep poker face.
      • In common with sanguine: Pleasant, forgiving, witty, easygoing, idealistic endurer, emotionally available, a good sense of humour, good with relationships.
    • Key Weaknesses: Indifferent, submissive, lazy, slow, shy and passive, slacker, indecisive and too yielding.
    • Expressive low, responsive high; response's delay long, duration short.
    • The Stable Supporter of DISC and Myers–Briggs types generally I_F_.
    • Will often correspond with the Optimist, or the Apathetic when in a Four-Philosophy Ensemble.
    • Amongst the four main "Dere Types" can qualify as a more shy Deredere or a pure Dandere.
    • Oni type and Good Cop/Bad Cop: Blue Oni and gentle, diplomatic "Good Cop".
    • Corresponding element, season, and division of a day: (cool and moist) water, winter, and deep night.
    • In a person's life, it corresponds to older adulthood (roughly ages 65 and up).
    • Organ: Heart.
    • Archetypal color: Teal, green, white, gray, all shades of blue or black (the colors of the ocean).
    • The Yin-Yang Duo: Yin (blue).
    • The Four Gods: Black Tortoise.
    • Planet or Satellite: The Moon.
    • Western Zodiac Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.
    • Leadership type: Levelheaded.
    • Personality Blood Type: AB
    • Apocalypse Horseman: Death.
    • Family member: Mother.
    • Eating disorder: Binge eating.
    • Cardinal Point: North

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, labeled sometimes as the Leukine, other times the Supine/Eclectic, although 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 Realist or Apathetic).

A fifth temperament was 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". In some versions of the theory, this is reversed, with the Phlegmatic kept in its old place, and the new temperament considered the moderate one.

This "fifth humour" often shares many common elements with the Phlegmatic. The difference is that the Phlegmatic is this way from a lower energy reserve which leads him 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 him to be reserved, but wanting of acceptance from others.

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 Four-Element Ensemble.

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.


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    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 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 five heroes of Fantasy Database fit this trope:
    • Sanguine: Phaeton, fun loving, and somewhat dumb and perverted.
    • Choleric: Icarus, an extrovert who has trouble making friends, and is quite Hot-Blooded as a result.
    • Melancholic: Erika, The Stoic, and the most serious of the group.
    • Phlegmatic: Frey, who tries to stay cool headed in the face of danger.
    • Leukine: Mikael, the mediator, who tries to ensure that none of the above kill each other.
    • It's worth noting that while Frey is generally Phlegmatic, Icarus' Troll tendencies can push her into Choleric territory. Also, despite Frey being Phlegmatic, she is the Red Oni to the Choleric Icarus' blue.
  • The 5 main characters of Aesir: Cross Wars have this dynamic:
  • The Spectrum Game: The first 4 characters to join the Inspectors have this dynamic with each other.
    • Sanguine: Silas, the energetic Nice Guy. Not too bright, but somewhat Hot-Blooded. Incredibly benevolent, and a patient foil to Inigo.
    • Choleric: Scarlett, the low-key Tsundere. The Only Sane Woman of the group, and the others tend to get on her nerves, releasing her anger issues.
    • Melancholic: Inigo, the brutally honest stoic. The most intellectual and snarky of the ensemble. Borders on Sociopathic Hero at times, and may be mildly depressed.
    • Phlegmatic: Azurine, the gentle Nice Girl. Treats everyone with kindness and is the most optimistic member of the group, as well as the one putting the most emphasis on the 'Iron' part of Iron Woobie.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The four main characters of Seth In The Pokecity:
    • 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 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 species of hyenas:
    • Spotted Hyenas are Sanguine as they're the most social and pack oriented.
    • Striped Hyenas are Choleric as they can be rather aggressive.
    • Brown Hyenas are Melancholic as they're the most mysterious and endangered of the hyena family.
    • Aardwolves are Phlegmatic as they're shy and peaceful insectivores.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Blondie: 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 (melancholic), Lucy van Pelt (choleric), Linus van Pelt (phlegmatic), Sally Brown (sanguine), and Snoopy (eclectic).
  • Wallace The Brave:

    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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


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