Plays | 9th Edition

In-text citations from plays have different formatting depending on whether the play is written in verse or in prose. When quoting lines of verse, avoid using page numbers and cite by whatever categories you can provide (title of play, act, scene, and line). Make sure to separate the numbers with periods. In the citation, use the title of the play, the act and scene separated by a period, and the line numbers. The citation examples below refer to title, act, scene, and line numbers.

Verse examples:

When Prospero says to Ferdinand, “All thy vexations / Were but my trials of thy love, and thou / Hast strangely stood the test,” he reveals his own surprise in his friend’s dedication to him (Tempest 4.1.5-7).

When Polonius says, “This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as the night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man,” he is giving timeless and wise advice to his son, Laertes (Hamlet 1.3.78-80).

When referencing commonly studied plays written in prose, list the author and page number first, followed by the act and/or scene, in your in-text citation. Separate the page number from the rest of the details with a semi-colon.

Prose example:

The audience laughs when Vladimir says, “There is a man all over you blaming on his boots the faults of his feet” (Beckett 8; act 1).

NOTE: Some works are classics and have accepted abbreviations that can be used. For plays, it is always acceptable to use the name or abbreviated name of the play. If you are interested in using these abbreviations, there is a list in Appendix 1 within the MLA Handbook. This list has abbreviations for works by Chaucer and Shakespeare.

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