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How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited

Acts, scenes and lines, oh my! You must be figuring out how to cite Shakespeare in your MLA paper. When it comes to Shakespeare in your MLA citation, creating quotes, in-text citations and formatting works cited entries is all about style. To make sure your style is “A” worthy, get the step-by-step instructions for creating all your Shakespeare citations from “Hamlet” to “Romeo and Juliet.” 

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How to Quote Shakespeare in MLA

When it comes to Shakespeare quotes in MLA style, you have to first decide if you have a short quote or a long quote. Check out how to create each one.

Creating Short Quotes

A short Shakespeare quote is less than three lines. Your quote will be in quotation marks and use a forward slash (/) to break up lines.

Example With One Line: 

In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”

Line Break Example: 

Shakespeare states, “By the pricking of my thumbs, / Something wicked this way comes.”

Creating Long Quotes

If you need to cite a long quote, you’ll use a block quote format. This means that you’ll indent the entire quote five spaces.

Example: 

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,-
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.

Citing Shakespeare Dialogue in MLA

For dialogue, you’ll also use block quote format and capitalize the speakers. You’ll also create a hanging indent on dialogue that goes into a second line. Check out an example to see this in action.

Example: 

HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common
QUEEN GERTRUDE: If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?

Creating In-Text Citations for Works by Shakespeare

When creating in-text or parenthetical citations for Shakespeare in MLA, remember to list the following:

  • Act
  • Scene
  • Lines

When formatting your in-text citations, keep these points in mind:

  • Italicize the title of the play.
  • Do not include page numbers.
  • Do not place a comma after the title of the play.
  • Separate the act, scene and lines with periods.
  • Enclose your citation in parentheses.

Example:

(Romeo and Juliet2.2.383-386)

  • Play: Romeo and Juliet
  • Act: 2
  • Scene: 2
  • Lines: 383-386

Use the full title of play in the first in-text citation. Then, you can abbreviate it in subsequent citations, like so:

(Rom. 2.2. 383-386)

If you are writing about only one play, use the author’s name in the citation rather than the title of the play.

Example:

(Shakespeare 2.2. 383-386)

How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited

MLA Abbreviations for Shakespeare

Since the works of William Shakespeare are cited frequently, MLA style requires using abbreviations for in-text (parenthetical) citations. Use the full name in the first parenthetical citation, then abbreviate for subsequent mentions. Abbreviations are created by shortening the title to its primary noun phrase.

List of Abbreviations for Common Shakespeare Works

AdoMuch Ado about NothingMac.Macbeth
Ant.Anthony and CleopatraMNDA Midsummer Night’s Dream
AWWAll’s Well That Ends WellMVMerchant of Venice
AYLAs You Like ItOth.Othello
Err.The Comedy of ErrorsRom.Romeo and Juliet
Ham.Hamlet
Shr.The Taming of the Shrew
JCJulius CaesarSon.Sonnets
LLLLove’s Labour’s LostTmp.The Tempest
Lr.King LearTNTwelfth Night
Note: Do not place a period after full words such as “ado” or with titles abbreviated to initials

 

For the full list of abbreviations, refer to the MLA Handbook Eighth Edition, pages 100-101.

How to Cite Shakespeare in the Works Cited

Creating works cited entries for Shakespeare’s works follows the same MLA 8 rules as any other similar work.

Citing Sources Written by Shakespeare

Follow the guidelines for citing a play published as a book using the MLA core elements. Elements 3 to 9 are within the container.

  • Author.
  • Title of Source,
  • Title of Container,
  • Other Contributors,
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • Location.

Works Cited Example:

Author Last Name, First Name.Title of Play. Editor or Translator. Publisher, Publication Date, Location.

Shakespeare, William.Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. John F. Cox. Vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, 1997. Google Books.

Anthology Example:

If you are citing a play published in an anthology, follow this format:

Shakespeare, William. “Romeo and Juliet.” An Oxford Anthology of Shakespeare. Ed. Stanley Wells. Oxford University Press, 1989. 250-260.

Citing Sources Written About Shakespeare

In addition to citing works by Shakespeare himself, you will likely also reference sources written about Shakespeare. This follows the standard MLA style.

Dawson, Anthony B., and Paul Yachnin, eds. William Shakespeare: Richard II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Hamlet MLA Citation Examples

Now that you know how to cite Shakespeare, it is time to watch it in action. View how “Hamlet” quotes would look in-text and in your works cited.

In-Text Citation: 

“Well, good night / If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, / The rivals of my watch, did them make haste.” (Hamlet 1.1. 14-15)

Works Cited Citation: 

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. George Richard Hibbard. Oxford University Press, 2008. Google Books.

Useful Resource About Shakespeare

Creating works cited entries for works about Shakespeare and his plays follows the same pattern as any other author. Use the MLA container system and follow the core elements to organize your sources correctly. Now that you have the know-how, give it a try.

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