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How to Cite a Play Within a Book


While citing sources can painstaking, it is the writer's responsibility to include information about a source in a parenthetical citation any time she includes material borrowed from a source. While an in-text citation for a play differs slightly than one for a book, keeping a guidebook nearby and breaking the entry down into parts clarifies where to place the information available. When writing about plays, writers can maintain credibility by following standard citation guidelines.

Cite Acts, Lines and Scenes

Examine how the play is divided and follow general guidelines for play in-text citations. If numbers are provided, "give the numbers of lines, acts, and scenes, or chapters and verses," say Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray, authors of "Hodges Harbrace Handbook."

Place the act number, the scene number and the line number(s) inside the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence where the quote appears: Desdemona pleads to Othello, "Kill me tomorrow; let me live tonight" (5.2.80).

Cite page numbers if the play does not note lines, acts and scenes. According to the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" by Joseph Gibaldi, indent dialogue one inch from the left margin and capitalize the characters' names:

EVELYN. Art is visceral

ADAM. So, I guess I didn't feel it, then. (26)

Be aware that information provided in a parenthetical citation exists to direct readers to a corresponding entry on a Works Cited page. Providing complete documentation about each source cited in the form of a works cited entry allows readers to locate the source for themselves.

Have the works cited entry follow the work in an anthology guidelines: Shakespeare, William. "The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice." [Ital] Stages of Drama: Classical to Contemporary Theater. Ed. Carl H. Klaus, Miriam Gilbert and Bradford S. Field Jr. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2003. 290-332. Print.

Warning
  • Do not rely on memory when citing and documenting sources. Refer to a style guide to verify the accuracy of all sources, which helps prevent plagiarism.
References
  • Hodges' Harbrace Handbook; Cheryl Glenn and Loretta Gray; 2010
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers; Joseph Gibaldi; 2003
About the Author

Marie Brown is a Nashville-based writer who has been writing professionally since 2004. She began writing instructional articles online in 2009, writing articles about writing, business, home organizing and childcare issues. Brown holds a master’s degree in English, a minor in writing and has an associate degree in early childhood education.

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