How to Cite a Play in Text

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From William Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde to George Bernard Shaw, playwrights have long defined and entertained cultures around the world. Any literary interpretation of any play will inevitably include quotes from the work; to avoid plagiarism claims and give credence to your work, you must always cite the information in the text of your essay or paper. Give credit where credit is due when working with an author's intellectual property to ensure a productive and top-grade-earning paper.

State the line from the play within quotation marks in your sentence. Separate lines with a forward slash line. Be sure to use the author's punctuation. For example: Romeo declares, “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/ It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”

Cite the act, scene and line numbers at the end of the quotation, separated by periods. Set this citation in parenthesis, after the quotation mark but before the period. For example: Romeo declares, “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/ It is the east, and Juliet is the sun” (2.2.2-3). This quotation is from Act 2, Scene 2, and is lines two through three.

Indent the quotation in your text if you quote more than three lines from the text. Split the lines where the author does, instead of using the slashed lines. Set the act, scene and line numbers in parenthesis after the indented quotes. If you indent the quotation, you don't need to use quotation marks. For example: Romeo declares, But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. (2.2.2-6)

Follow an indented quotation with your own words summing it up. Do not finish a paragraph with a quote.


  • Most literary interpretations use these Modern Language Association citation rules. If your teacher or professor requires a different style of citation for some reason, consult that style's instructional manual for citation details.
  • Use Arabic numerals for your citations unless your instructor prefers Roman numerals.


About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

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