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How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited


Teachers frequently assign essays on William Shakespeare in English literature and humanities classes. Thus, it’s important to know how to cite Shakespeare using the MLA citation style. Learning about Shakespeare’s works can be a lot of fun, too. There are many resources available to help you research and write your MLA 8 paper about this topic.

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Creating In-Text Citations for Works by Shakespeare

While creating in-text or parenthetical citations, remember to list the following:

  • Act.
  • Scene.
  • Lines.

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

  • Italicize 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.


(Hamlet 2.2.383-386)

Play: Hamlet
Act: 2
Scene: 2
Lines: 383-386

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

(Ham. 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.


(Shakespeare 2.2. 383-386)

MLA Abbreviations for Shakespeare

How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited

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 thereafter. Abbreviations are created by shortening the title to its primary noun phrase.

Note: Do not place a period after full words such as “ado” or titles abbreviated to initials.


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

Works Cited Entries

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.


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.


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.

Useful Resource About Shakespeare

To learn more about Shakespeare’s works, check Bard Web. It’s a fun and useful resource on the topic.

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.

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