This trope is a common method of giving characters distinctive personalities, even if they have similar roles.
A Four-Temperament Ensemble is an ensemble that corresponds to each of the Four Temperaments. People once believed that personality was based on concentrations of certain bodily fluids: blood, black bile, bile, and phlegm which are called the four humors. If a person has too much of a a certain fluid or humor, that affects their personality.
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 and people-oriented. Generally likes socialization, fun crowds, and showcases of people’s talents; highly opposed to dwelling on the past. Exhibits optimism, compassion, good cheer, a love of fun, enthusiasm. On the flip side, they may be impulsive, gullible, self-indulgent,lustful, Drama Queens, easily distracted, or even an uber-slob or space case. Tendency to anger-burst, followed by “forgive and forget”; tendency to move on rather than blame anyone. Can often be a Keet, The Loonie, Spirited Competitor, Boisterous Bruiser, Blood Knight, The Pollyanna, Gentleman and a Scholar, Gossipy Hen, or Motor Mouth; or if female, a more plucky/outgoing Proper Lady, Kawaiiko, Genki Girl, or The Chick.
- 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.
- 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.
- Choleric (yellow bile): Extroverted and task-oriented. Mainly seeks success and completion of tasks, and likes to be in charge of successful projects. Exhibits leadership, dominance, ambition, and charisma; also tactical and very passionate. On the flip side, highly prideful, easily angered or upset and may show arrogance, narrow-mindedness, obsession, and a Hair-Trigger Temper — but known for not showing any kinds of emotion otherwise. Rather than forgive, tendency to snap and move on while kicking to the curb; tendency to blame others. Likes to be independent and have control over others; could beThe Bully or a Bad Boss if in charge. The most likely to be things such as The Leader, The Neidermeyer, Anti-Hero, or The Lancer. If The Smart Guy, it’s by being crafty and cunning. If female, will be a fierce Lady of War or a Tsundere. If heroic, Good Is Not Nice may come into play.
- 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.
- 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.
- Melancholic (black bile): Introverted and task-oriented. These characters can be extremely passionate and have high ideals. The intentions and longings found in this temperament are mainly the making and following of rules, good manners being among those rules. These characters focus on the world of internal thought and the best way to apply those thoughts. Independent, courteous, organized, highly refined, hard-working (though tend to work a little too much), analytical; but also a detached, neurotic, obsessiveperfectionist whose insanely high standards can lead to depression. Rather than forgive, tendency to withdraw and brood; tendency to blame others, self, and “all of the above” (sometimes all at once). Prone to over-thinking on petty matters which easily makes them stressed to the point of paranoia. Gluttony or coveting, or both, are a good bet. Often The Sneaky Guy or a very serious form of The Smart Guyand an excellent candidate for The Leader. Can often hide in a sour shell and, if female, be a more brooding loner-type Ice Queen, Dark Action Girl, The Ophelia, Femme Fatale or Mysterious Woman. Those melancholics who have taken to lives of action can be the Byronic Hero or a Manipulative Bastard. I Work Alone will often come into play.
- 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.
- 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.
- Phlegmatic (phlegm): Introverted and people-oriented. Sometimes referred to as “the sweethearts” of the personalities. The dreams and passions of this temperament are mainly the spread of kindness, forgiveness, and restoration of peace and harmony. Docile, timid, and / or lazy, and frequently hides all emotions (other than sympathy). Tends to be dependent on others, either by choice or because of insecurity, they are also prone to Sloth and can be a very powerful version of The Sneaky Guy (possibly superior to that of a Melancholic) due to natural tendency to be quiet and patient . This temperament is a people person but sometimes expresses these traits in an awkward fashion. Tendency to perhaps brood temporarily, but then “forgive and forget”; tendency to blame self and are prone to awkwardness, indecisiveness but still remain focused. Can often be Weak, but Skilled, The Heart, Wide-Eyed Idealist, or a more relaxed version of The Smart Guy and, if female, may be an Emotionless Girl, Yamato Nadeshiko, Team Mom, or more submissive Proper Lady.
- 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 havecontrol over ice.)
- 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.
However, not all characters can fit one of these four profiles; some of them might be more “neutral.”
- Leukine (white blood cells): 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. 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.
Making things more complex, some characters may be a combination of any of the temperaments.
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 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 genkiBlood 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 Animeheroes.
- 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. 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. Often The Smart Guy. Can range from bookishNice Guy to Kuudere/Sugar and Ice Personality. On The Hero‘s side, Beware the Nice Ones is almost always a factor.
- 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 atguarding a team or family from falling apart. On the flip side, often overly tolerant and/or permissive; 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 theabove “Idealist”). Usually the diametric opposite of an Insufferable Genius or Neat Freak. Taken to an extreme, can be a Cloud Cuckoolander.
This ensemble can present in other types of ensembles as well.
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), andThe 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.