Elbow Room Introduction
I'm King John. As you might imagine, I'm the king, and of England, too. So I'm pretty important, if I may say so myself, and I make sure everyone knows it by going to war to defend my title. And you know what I think?
Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room;
It would not out at windows nor at doors.
There is so hot a summer in my bosom,
That all my bowels crumble up to dust:
I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen
Upon a parchment, and against this fire
Do I shrink up. (5.7.28-34)
Who Said It and Where
This one is from a little known play called King John. Not familiar? Here's the lowdown: Richard the Lionhearted was King, and appointed his brother John to be king after him. Wait a minute. Did we say "appointed"? That's right. Not everyone is on board with this decision since the English crown passes from father to son.
It's really Arthur, Richard's nephew who should be king. Naturally this leads to a huge argument between a bunch of lords, ladies, and knights who all have an opinion about who is rightfully king.
A lot of stuff goes down. Lands are lost. Battles are waged. Monasteries are robbed. Families fight one another. Eventually, the nobles come together and a treaty is signed with France. It seems like things are looking up for King John, because a lot of his enemies have fallen at sea. But then a monk poisons him. Well, you can't win 'em all.
In this scene, King John's son Henry thinks about how his dad isn't doing so hot. His mind is going down the drain. Sure enough, John is brought in and doesn't make any sense. He rambles about being nothing but dust. He thinks he's withering away and doesn't have much time left.
Then he dies. Looks like he was right.