How to Cite a Play in MLA — Formatting & Examples

Time to read: 4 Minutes
How-to-cite-a-play-in-MLA-Definition

Whether writing an assignment for Shakespeare’s month or intending to use a play as the basis for a college project, it’s essential to know how to cite a play in MLA.

Knowing how to cite a play in MLA is also the most secure technique to avoid plagiarism. The challenging aspect is providing pertinent information and knowing how to cite a play in MLA correctly, as you might easily lose points for a stylistic error.

How to cite a play in MLA – In a Nutshell

  • When quoting from a play in an essay, MLA style requires you to add an in-text citation indicating the source.
  • Including quotes from a play in your work will vary based on whether you are quoting a single character or dialogue between numerous characters.
  • In MLA format, an additional page is inserted after the last page of the academic essay to list all sources acknowledged within.

Definition: How to cite a play in MLA

An MLA parenthetical citation for a play with numbered lines should include the play’s title, author, act number, scene number and line numbers. In the absence of line numbers, refer to the page the text appears on.

Capitalize, punctuate and indent dialogue as necessary.

Example:

Banquo: I’ll have it done.

Macduff: What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won. (Shakespeare 1.2.94–95)

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citations

An MLA in-text citation includes the author’s last name and page number:

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citation for a play

(Beckett 8)

Replace the page number with the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods if they’re included in the play:

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citation with act, scene and line numbers

(Shakespeare 1.3.188–90)

If the text only employs lines, clarify what the numbers represent by including “lines” before the author’s name or title in the first citation of that piece. Subsequent references to the same play may omit “lines.”

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citation with line numbers

(Malcolm, lines 15–26)

(Malcolm 35–40)

Multiple plays by the same author

Don’t know how to cite a play in MLA with multiple plays by one author? Worry no more! In articles focusing on many works by a single playwright, italicize the play title instead of the writer’s name in each reference.1

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citation with play title

(Macbeth 1.3.188–90)

The MLA style manual suggests using abbreviations after the initial reference to avoid repeating play titles throughout your dissertation.
If your study is on Shakespeare, you can utilize commonly accepted acronyms for play titles.

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citation with abbreviated play title

(Mac. 2.1.25)

Quoting dialogue

When quoting several dialogue lines from a play or film:2

  • Place the quotation on a new line with a half-inch left margin indent.
  • The discourse should begin with the character’s name in capital letters and a period.
  • If a character’s discourse extends beyond one line, indent the subsequent lines by a half inch.
  • Add the citation following the punctuation mark.
How to Cite a Play in MLA - Quoting dialogue

How to cite a play in MLA: Works Cited list

The Works Cited section contains the citation information used in the text. The citation format depends on whether it was published as a book, an anthology, or a live performance.

Book

If the play is published as a book, the citation format is identical to the standard MLA format.3

Example: How to cite a play in MLA

MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Publisher, Year.
MLA Works Cited entry
Vin, Brian. Translations. Fabir and Fabir, 1983.
MLA in-text citation
(Vin 57)

Collection or anthology

Put a period after the play’s title if published in a collection or anthology and then give the complete details of the sourcebook.

Example: How to cite a play in MLA

MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Collection/Anthology Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, Page range.
MLA format
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. The Marvel Austen: The Complete Works, edited by Success Oceo et al., 2nd ed., Marvel UP, 1995, pp. 2503–2568.
MLA in-text citation
(Austen 1.2.20)

If no editor is listed, remove this section and proceed directly from the anthology’s title to the publisher’s details.

Live performance

To reference a live performance of a play, provide the date and location of the performance. Include the theater company as well.

Example: How to cite a play in MLA

MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Directed by Director first name, Last name, Publisher, Day Month Year, Theater Name, City. Performance.
MLA Works Cited entry
Smith, Ethan, et al. The View of the Hebrews. Directed by Casey Jason and Ethan Smith, 20 Feb. 2019, Prince Edward Theatre, London.
MLA in-text citation
(Smith et al.)2

FAQs

MLA style ensures that your reader knows the play being cited. Italicize the work’s title with the page number or scene, act ,and lines and only use the full title in the initial citation.

Use a shortened version of the work’s title when a source’s author is unknown. If the work is short, enclose the title in quotation marks; if longer italicize the title and include the page number.

Quotes longer than four prose lines or three verse lines should be placed in a separate block of text without quotation marks. Begin the quotation on a new line, double-spacing throughout and indenting it by 1/2 inch from the left margin.

Sources

1 Purdue Online Writing Lab. “MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics.” Purdue University. Accessed January 3, 2022. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html.

2 Betts, Jennifer. “How to Cite a Play in MLA.” Bibliography.com. Accessed January 3, 2022.  https://www.bibliography.com/mla/how-to-cite-a-play-in-mla/.

3 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “MLA Style.” August 18, 2021. https://libguides.uww.edu/mla/play.