How to Cite a Play in APA

APA formatting style stems from guidelines set up by the American Psychological Association. Social sciences courses such as sociology, psychology and history often require the use of APA formatting for research assignments, although other disciplines may use it as well. With APA, for plays and other sources, there are different requirements for citations in the text and for the references page.


Use the author's last name and year of publication with a comma between, just as you would for typical sources at the start of the citation.

Add "trans." before the date if the work you reference was translated from another language, including old versions of English, such as Shakespeare.

Put in the act, scene and line number(s) instead of page numbers at the end of the citation. Use Arabic numerals (regular numbers as opposed to Roman numerals) with periods between.

Insert a slash to indicate line breaks for plays written in poetry form, such as blank verse in Shakespeare.

Place punctuation appropriately. Remember that the end period appears after the citation even though end quotation marks in a quote come before the parentheses. A typical quote might look like this:

"Do not for ever with thy vailed lids / seeks for they noble father in the dust: / thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die..." (Shakespeare, trans. 1992, 1.2.70-72).

References Entry

Start with the author's name, last name first, then first initial followed by a period.

Put the date of publication (or translation) in parentheses next with a period after the parentheses.

Write the title of the play with no special formatting such as quotation marks or italics. Capitalize only the first word of the play's title and any proper nouns such as people's or place names within the title.

Put the publication information last. Immediately after the play's title (no period or other punctuation between), put the name of the editor in parentheses followed by a period. Then write the city of publication, a colon, and the name of the publishing company. End with a period.

An entry might look like this:

Shakespeare, W. (1992). The tragedy of Hamlet, prince of Denmark (B.A. Mowat & P. Werstine, Eds.). New York: Washington Square-Pocket.

Follow your instructor's guidelines for APA format if they differ from those you find elsewhere.

Alphabetize the entries on the references page according to the first word in the entry, and use a hanging indent (second and subsequent lines indented one-half inch).

Quotations over 40 words should be placed in block format. Indent the entire quote five spaces from the left margin, leave off quotation marks (the indent tells the reader it is a quote) and place the period at the end before the citation instead of after the parentheses.

Need help with a citation? Try our citation generator.

Cite this Article