How to Cite Poems & Plays in MLA

Modern Language Association or MLA format is typically applied to papers involving comparative literature, literary criticism and literature study. Papers including citations from poems and plays often use MLA format. Properly citing such sources helps your reader understand which works you refer to and also prevents charges of plagiarism, which can have serious consequences.


According to the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, in-text citations for poetry and plays follow guidelines similar to other citations. Include the author's last name. Instead of the usual page number, however, plays need act and scene numbers after the author's name with no punctuation after the author. For plays written in verse form, such as Shakespeare, add a line number. Use Arabic numerals with periods between the sections. For instance, "2.4.10-12" refers to act one, scene four, lines ten through twelve. Similarly, in citations for poems, use the author's last name and line number instead of a page number: (Browning 22-23).

Works Cited

Entries for plays and poetry on the Works Cited page may include more information than entries for regular books. Begin the entry with the author of the play or poem you cited, last name first, with a period after it. Then give the title of the play or poem. If the piece is part of an anthology or collection, put quotation marks around this title, capitalizing the first and important words. Place a period at the end. Then type the name of the anthology, italicized, followed by a period. Write "Ed." (without the quotation marks) followed by the editor's name, if provided. After a period, give the city of publication, a colon, the publishing company, a comma and the year. Include the page numbers for the selection next. After a period, name the medium, such as print. The entry might appear like this: Browning, Ann. "The Rose of Mine." Poems Galore (italicized). Ed. Joan Smith. New York: Penguin, 1990. Print.

Other Concerns

If the play is published as its own piece rather than part of a collection, follow the regular guidelines for a book entry on the Works Cited page. If you found the play or poem on the Internet, you may not have publisher information. In that case, leave out those sections and after the title of the work, put the name of the website or the database in italics with a period at the end. If print publisher information appears, include both sets of information. The medium should be "Web" (without the quotation marks). Conclude your entry with the access date, giving day, month and year and a period. This type of entry might appear like this: Browning, Ann. "The Rose of Mine." Love Poems (italicized). Web. 10 March 2013.