How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA | Format & Examples
The works of Shakespeare, like many plays, have consistently numbered acts, scenes, and lines. These numbers should be used in your MLA in-text citations, separated by periods, instead of page numbers.
The Works Cited entry follows the format for a book, but varies depending on whether you cite from a standalone edition or a collection. The example below is for a standalone edition of Hamlet.
If you cite multiple Shakespeare plays in your paper, replace the author’s name with an abbreviation of the play title in your in-text citation.
|MLA format||Shakespeare, William. Play Title. Edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year.|
|MLA Works Cited entry||Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by G. R. Hibbard, Oxford UP, 2008.|
|MLA in-text citation||(Shakespeare 5.2.201–204) or (Ham. 1.2.321–324)|
Citing a play from a collection
If you use a collection of all or several of Shakespeare’s works, include a Works Cited entry for each work you cite from it, providing the title of the individual work, followed by information about the collection.
Note that play titles remain italicized here, since these are works that would usually stand alone.
|MLA format||Shakespeare, William. Play Title. Collection Title, edition, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, pp. Page range.|
|MLA Works Cited entry||Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. The Norton Shakespeare, 3rd ed., edited by Stephen Greenblatt, W. W. Norton, 2016, pp. 1907–1971.|
|MLA in-text citation||(Shakespeare 3.2.20–25) or (TN 3.2.20–25)|
If you cite several works by Shakespeare, order them alphabetically by title, and replace “Shakespeare, William” with a series of three em dashes after the first one.
Citing multiple Shakespeare plays
If you cite more than one Shakespeare play in your paper, MLA recommends starting each in-text citation with an abbreviated version of the play title, in italics. A list of the standard abbreviations can be found here; don’t make up your own abbreviations.
Introduce each abbreviation the first time you mention the play’s title, then use it in all subsequent citations of that play.
Don’t use these abbreviations outside of parentheses. If you frequently mention a multi-word title in your text, you can instead shorten it to a recognizable keyword (e.g. Midsummer for A Midsummer Night’s Dream) after the first mention.
Quoting Shakespeare in MLA
Shakespeare quotations generally take the form of verse or dialogue.
To quote up to three lines of verse from a play or poem, just treat it like a normal quotation. Use a forward slash (/) with spaces around it to indicate a new line.
If there’s a stanza break within the quotation, indicate it with a double forward slash (//).
If you are quoting more than three lines of verse, format it as a block quote (indented on a new line with no quotation marks).
Dialogue from two or more characters should be presented as a block quote.
Include the characters’ names in block capitals, followed by a period, and use a hanging indent for subsequent lines in a single character’s speech. Place the citation after the closing punctuation.
Frequently asked questions about MLA citations
- Should I use page numbers in a Shakespeare citation in MLA?
No, do not use page numbers in your MLA in-text citations of Shakespeare plays. Instead, specify the act, scene, and line numbers of the quoted material, separated by periods, e.g. (Shakespeare 3.2.20–25).
This makes it easier for the reader to find the relevant passage in any edition of the text.
- How do I cite multiple Shakespeare plays in an MLA paper?
If you cite multiple Shakespeare plays throughout your paper, the MLA in-text citation begins with an abbreviated version of the title (as shown here), e.g. (Oth. 1.2.4). Each play should have its own Works Cited entry (even if they all come from the same collection).
If you cite only one Shakespeare play in your paper, you should include a Works Cited entry for that play, and your in-text citations should start with the author’s name, e.g. (Shakespeare 1.1.4).
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