How To Cite A Play In MLA – Formatting & Examples

12.01.23 MLA examples Time to read: 4min

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In academic writing, proper citation practices are essential to acknowledge the intellectual contributions of authors and to uphold the integrity of scholarly discourse. For scholars, students, and writers engaged in the study of drama and theater, understanding how to cite a play in MLA format is important. This guide delves into the intricacies of citing plays in MLA, providing a step-by-step elucidation of the citation process for various play types, including classic and contemporary works.

How to cite a play in MLA – In a Nutshell

  • When quoting from a play in an essay, MLA style requires you to add an in-text citation indicating the source.
  • Including quotes from a play in your work will vary based on whether you are quoting a single character or dialogue between numerous characters.
  • In MLA format, an additional page is inserted after the last page of the academic essay to list all sources acknowledged within.

Definition: How to cite a play in MLA

An MLA parenthetical citation for a play with numbered lines should include the play’s title, author, act number, scene number, and line numbers. Without line numbers, refer to the page the text appears on. Capitalize, punctuate, and indent dialogue as necessary.


  • Banquo: I’ll have it done.
  • Macduff: What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won. (Shakespeare 1.2.94–95)

How to cite a play in MLA: In-text citations

An MLA in-text citation includes the author’s last name and page number:


  • (Beckett 8)

Replace the page number with the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods if they’re included in the play:


  • (Shakespeare 1.3.188–90)

If the text only employs lines, clarify what the numbers represent by including “lines” before the author’s name or title in the first citation of that piece. Subsequent references to the same play may omit “lines.”


  • (Malcolm, lines 15–26)
  • (Malcolm 35–40)

Multiple plays by the same author

In articles focusing on many works by a single playwright, italicize the play title instead of the writer’s name in each reference.


  • (Macbeth 1.3.188–90)

The MLA style manual suggests using abbreviations after the initial reference to avoid repeating play titles throughout your dissertation. If your study is on Shakespeare, you can utilize commonly accepted acronyms for play titles.


  • (Mac. 2.1.25)

Quoting dialogue

When quoting several dialogue lines from a play or film:

  • Place the quotation on a new line with a half-inch left margin indent.
  • The discourse should begin with the character’s name in capital letters and a period.
  • If a character’s discourse extends beyond one line, indent the subsequent lines by a half inch.
  • Add the citation following the punctuation mark.
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How to cite a play in MLA: Works Cited list

The Works Cited section contains the citation information used in the text. The citation format depends on whether it was published as a book, an anthology, or a live performance.


If the play is published as a book, the citation format is identical to the standard MLA format.


MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Publisher, Year.
MLA Works Cited entry
Vin, Brian. Translations. Fabir and Fabir, 1983.
MLA in-text citation
(Vin 57)

Collection or anthology

Put a period after the play’s title if published in a collection or anthology, and then give the complete details of the sourcebook.


MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Collection/Anthology Title, edited by Editor first name Last name, Publisher, Year, Page range.
MLA format
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. The Marvel Austen: The Complete Works, edited by Success Oceo et al., 2nd ed., Marvel UP, 1995, pp. 2503–2568.
MLA in-text citation
(Austen 1.2.20)

If there is no editor listed, simply remove this section and proceed as illustrated above.

Live performance

To reference a live performance of a play, provide the date and location of the performance. Include the theater company as well.


MLA format
Author last name, First name. Title of Play. Directed by Director first name, Last name, Publisher, Day Month Year, Theater Name, City. Performance.
MLA Works Cited entry
Smith, Ethan, et al. The View of the Hebrews. Directed by Casey Jason and Ethan Smith, 20 Feb. 2019, Prince Edward Theatre, London.
MLA in-text citation
(Smith et al.)
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MLA style ensures that your reader knows the play being cited. Italicize the work’s title with the page number or scene, act , and lines and only use the full title in the initial citation.

Use a shortened version of the work’s title when a source’s author is unknown. If the work is short, enclose the title in quotation marks; if longer, italicize the title and include the page number.

Quotes longer than four prose lines or three verse lines should be placed in a separate block of text without quotation marks. Begin the quotation on a new line, double-spacing throughout and indenting it by 1/2 inch from the left margin.