How to cite a play in MLA
When citing a play with numbered lines, the MLA parenthetical citation should include the author name and the act, scene and line number(s). If the lines are not numbered, include the page number instead.
When quoting dialogue, include the character names in all capitals followed by a period, and pay attention to indentation.
Citing plays in MLA
An MLA in-text citation contains the author’s last name and a page number:
If the text of the play includes act, scene, and line numbers, replace the page number with the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods:
If the text uses lines only, clarify what the numbers mean by writing “line(s)” beforehand in the first citation of that play, separated from the author name or title with a comma. Subsequent citations of the same play can omit “line(s).”
Citing multiple plays by one playwright
In papers focusing on multiple works by one playwright (for example, the works of Shakespeare), use the italicized play name instead of the author name in each citation:
To avoid repeating play names throughout your dissertation, the MLA style guide recommends writing the full name in the first citation, then using abbreviations for subsequent mentions.
If your research is focused on Shakespeare, there are universally accepted play name abbreviations you can use. Do not devise your own, as your supervisor will be expecting these standard abbreviations:
How to quote dialogue from a play
When quoting multiple lines of dialogue from a play or screenplay:
- Set the quote on a new line, indented half an inch from the left margin.
- Start the dialogue with the character’s name in capital letters, followed by a period.
- If a character’s dialogue runs over one line, indent subsequent lines a further half inch.
- Add the citation at the end, after the punctuation mark.
Plays in an MLA Works Cited list
The Works Cited section is where you list the full references for sources cited in the text. The reference for a play looks different depending on whether it was published as a whole book, collected in an anthology, or performed live.
If the play is published as a stand-alone book, it looks the same as a standard MLA book citation.
|Format||Author last name, First name. Play Title. Publisher, Year.|
|Works Cited entry||Friel, Brian. Translations. Faber and Faber, 1981.|
|In-text citation||(Friel 57)|
Collection or anthology
If the play is published in an anthology or collection, place a period after the play’s title, followed by full details of the book in which it appears.
|Format||Author last name, First name. Play Title. Collection/Anthology Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, Page range.|
|Works Cited entry||Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works, edited by John Jowett et al., 2nd ed., Oxford UP, 1998, pp. 2501–2565.|
|In-text citation||(Shakespeare 1.2.20)|
If there is no named editor, simply omit this part and proceed straight from the anthology name to the publisher information.
|Format||Author last name, First name. Play Title. Directed by Director first name Last name, Publisher, Day Month Year, Theater Name, City. Performance.|
|Works Cited entry||Parker, Trey, et al. The Book of Mormon. Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, 20 Feb. 2019, Prince of Wales Theatre, London.|
|In-text citation||(Parker et al.)|