The Temperaments


Cholerics, related to fire, are pictured as short, upright, with rising, prominent shoulders. They will speak deliberately, and to the point, with short, abrupt gestures and be friendly as long as they are recognized as the leader. A poor memory follows observing what is of interest to them.


The sanguine person is slender, physically well-balanced, but up in the air when they walk, tripping on their toes. The air-related character has dancing, lively eyes and graceful gestures as they speak with rather flowery, possibly untrustworthy information. While friendly and kind to all, this person can be be changeable and superficial.


The phlegmatic walks like a steamroller, and is quite slow and deliberate. Physically they are big, fleshy, quite jolly-looking! Like the ocean, they are stable, methodical, trustworthy and interested in routine, but when riled up can be absolutely devastating.


A melancholic—large, bony and with bowed head—is lost in his own world and gives the impression of heaviness. The earth character, who will never forget an injury or insult since it is dwelled-upon. He is an intellectual, and while observing little, it will be remembered and enriched with his own thought. Melancholics tend to be egotistical and vindictive, though self-sacrificing in cases of suffering. They are easily depressed, and moody, and have poor relationships with others unless they are ‘fellow sufferers.’

(Wilkinson, The Temperaments in Education)

The lower part of campus, showing two of the double classrooms at left and the carriage house and administration cottage to the right.

by both physical form and emotional character. These characters are supposedly expressed in everyone, but in varying degrees, with one prominent, two secondary, and the fourth of tertiary emphasis.

Teachers in Waldorf schools will try to understand their students’ characters and through this understanding not only decide upon their seating in the classroom, but how they are disciplined, what the emphasis will be in stories told to them, how they are taught all subjects, which patterns they are encouraged to draw. The philosophy is that like should be treated with like, which is the homeopathic principle of medicine. “To the sanguine one must be lively; to the choleric boisterous; to the melancholic sad; and to the phlegmatic, indifferent.” (Wilkinson)

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