Severus Snape's Analysis 

Melancholicus or Snape
from a medieval point of view
Here is what this author wrote me:
"I came across your site on the Internet and since we seem to share a similar fascination, I like to present to you my point of view in this subject matter. Why is this Snape so damn fascinating?
As a scholar in Medieval History I was stuck by the character of Snape as the very incarnation of the Melancholicus, one of the four Galenian character-types described in medieval medicine books. Knowing Rowling's scholarly background, I don't think this is a coincidence. Since I did not come across a description of the Melancholicus on your site, I would like to fill this gap. You're work isn't complete without it!
And while I was at it, I also projected the other three types (the Sanguinicus, the Cholericus and the Flegmaticus) on HP's world and find the result worthwhile."

Thank you, and enjoy!

 Lady Claudia - I decided not to add any comments because the whole thing is self-explanatory!  If you feel some characters have not been placed in the right category, I won't argue with you or the author.  But since this comes directly from someone specializing in Medieval History, I reckon she knows what she's talking about! Therefore, I shall not try to analyze something I am not well acquainted with!  Personally, I think viewing Severus from this point of view is wonderful and very instructive indeed!


 Original text

The four temperaments according to the Galenian system

(Galenus, Greek philosopher and doctor, 2th-1th century BC)


This system is based on a long tradition in Greek nature-philosophy, which defines four elements, qualities, hemispheres, seasons, etc, in creation and human life. In the Middle Ages this system became more and more elaborated, but suited the contemporary physicians well. This system of four corresponds to four types of people, in other words four ‘temperaments’.


The elements which define the temperaments are these:


four elements: fire, air, water, earth

four ‘qualities’: warm, cold, dry, moist

four body fluids: blood, slime, yellow gall, black gall

four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter

four hemispheres: north, south, east, west

four times of the day: morning, noon, afternoon, night

four phases in life: childhood, youth, adult, old

four Zodiac signs: Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius, Taurus (these are the central four in this system)

four celestial bodies: Sun, Moon, Jupiter, Saturn (idem)


And a lot more, but these are the most important. In medieval times, four stood for the creation. (1-God; 2-two natures of Christ; 3-H. Trinity; 7-perfection; 8-eternity, etc.). Systematic as they were, the middle-agers marvelled at the absolutely harmonious way in which the Creator had organized everything, and they did their utmost best to decipher Gods blueprint.


And now for the temperaments. I have taken the liberty of adding some other ‘fields’, such as which HP character fits in which temperament, which subject they would like best, which art form, and which Hogwarts house fits in best. These are of course my own ideas, and can therefore be argued.


Cholericus – the choleric type


Element:                       fire

Qualities:                      warm, dry

Body fluids:                  yellow gall

Season:                        summer

Hemisphere:                 south

Daytime:                      noon

Lifetime:                       youth

Zodiac:                         Leo

Celestial body:              Sun, Mars


Appearance: tall, slim, athletic, sometimes somewhat militaristic

Character: courageous, passionate, aggressive, disciplined, strict, arrogant, masculine, a warrior, ambitious, etc.

Iconography: knight in armour, lion

HP character: Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore (although he has some sanguine tendencies as well), Hermione Granger, Percy Weasley, Sirius Black, Oliver Wood, Marcus Flint, Lucius Malfoy[1]

Hogwarts House: Gryffindor[2]

Hogwarts subject: Transfiguration, Care of Magical Creatures, Duelling, Quidditch (the ‘battle’ aspect)

Artforms: Antique sculptures, neo-classical architecture, Beethoven, things clear and grand


Sanguinicus – the sanguine type


Element:                       air

Qualities:                      warm, moist

Body fluid:                   blood

Season:                        spring

Hemisphere:                 east

Daytime:                      morning

Lifetime:                       childhood

Zodiac:                        Taurus

Celestial body: Jupiter (the main god of the Romans)


Appearance: well build, large, very well dressed, blushing face, handsome

Character: the popular guy, a bon-vivant, extravert, light-hearted, positive, sensual, carpe diem, intelligent. In the Middle Ages the sanguine type was considered to be the ideal.

Iconography: chivalric knight, falcon

HP character: Prof. Flitwick, Gilderoy Lockhart, Hagrid,[3] Fred & George Weasley, Lee Jordan, James Potter[4]

Hogwarts house: Ravenclaw[5]

Hogwarts subjects: Charms, Quidditch (the ‘glamorous’ aspect) 

Artforms: big baroc oil paintings (especially Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens en Jan Steen), Vivaldi


Phlegmaticus – the phlegmatic type


Element:                       water

Qualities:                      cold, moist

Body fluid:                   slime

Season:                        winter

Hemisphere:                 north

Daytime:                      night

Lifetime:                       old age

Zodiac:                         Aquarius

Celestial body:              Moon, Venus


Appearance: short, sometimes obese, weak, pale, well-dressed, ‘watery’

Character: friendly, gentle, peaceful, indecisive, tranquil, slow, sometimes lazy, quiet, feminine

Iconography: merchant, goat

HP character: Neville Longbottom, definitely

Hogwarts house: Hufflepuff

Hogwarts subjects: Herbology, Muggle-studies, Divination[6]

Artforms: impressionist paintings, New-Age music


Melancholicus – the melancholical type


Element:                       earth

Qualities:                      cold, dry

Body fluid:                   black gall (considered the most dangerous of the fluids)

Season:                        autumn

Hemisphere:                 west

Daytime:                      evening

Lifetime:                       adult

Zodiac:                         Scorpio

Celestial body:              Saturn (the unlucky planet)


Appearance: tall, thin, gaunt, unhealthy, ugly, often not well-groomed (sounds familiar?)

Character: solitary, vindictive, cruel, hard, cold, an intriguer, sad, intense, complex, someone with a lot of scars on his/her soul. But in antique times the choleric type was mostly considered to be a genius.

Iconography: monk, pig

HP character: Severus Snape (you don’t say), Alastor Moody, Barty Crouch sr.

Hogwarts House: Slytherin (in the dungeons, where else?)

Hogwarts subjects: potions, (Defense against) the Dark Arts, arithmancy, ancient runes, all of the Artes Incertae



[1] In the movie he certainly looks the choleric type, with strong melancholical influences. I place him here mainly because of Jason Isaacs performance, since Malfoy is in the movie much more a personality than in the books.

[2] I have long doubted whether this should be Ravenclaw, but I do think (considering McGonagalls personality, the colour red, the lion, Godric Griffindors sword, the emphasis on bravery etc.) Gryffindor fits better.

[3] I placed him here because of his amiable, light-hearted nature

[4] We know very little of his character, but since he appears to be a very popular guy and the opposite of Severus Snape (the melancolicus is the opposite of the sanguinicus), I placed him here.

[5] Ravenclaw is the least well defined Hogwarts house, I think. Griffindors certainly have a much more popular attitude than the Ravenclaws, but I do believe Ravenclaw is the more sanguine house (considering Flitwick, the raven in their coat of arms, the emphasis of the Sorting Hat places on ‘wit’, etc.)

[6] because it is so woolly and silly