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How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited

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Teachers assign essays on William Shakespeare in humanities classes frequently, using MLA citation style. Learning about Shakespeare’s works can be fun and there are quite a bit of resources available to help you research and write about them as well.

How to Cite Shakespeare in MLA Works Cited

Creating In-Text Citations for Works by Shakespeare

While creating in-text or parenthetical citations, list:

  • Act.
  • Scene.
  • Lines.

Formatting:

  • Italicize title of the play
  • No page numbers
  • Separate by periods
  • Enclose in parentheses

Example:

(Hamlet 2.2.383-386)

Play: Hamlet

Act: 2

Scene: 2

Lines: 383-386

Use full title of play in first in-text citation, abbreviate it thereafter.

(Ham. 2.2. 383-386)

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

Example:

(Shakespeare 2.2. 383-386)

MLA Abbreviations for Works by 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 thereafter. Abbreviations are created by shortening the title to its noun phrase.

Here are some examples of abbreviated MLA style Shakespeare titles:

  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • Hamlet
  • Much Ado About Nothing Ado
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • The Tempest
  • The Winter’s Tale WT

Note: No period after full words such as ado or titles abbreviated to initials WT.

A full list of abbreviations is available in the MLA Handbook eighth edition, pages 100-101.

Works Cited Entries

Creating works cited entries follows the same MLA 8 rules as any other work.

Citing Sources Written by Shakespeare

Follow the guidelines for citing a play published as a book using the MLA Core Elements.

Elements 3 – 9 are within the container

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

Example

Author. Title of Play. Editor or Translator. Publisher, Publication Date. Medium of Publication.

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

 

Example

Citing a Play Published in an Anthology:

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

 

Citing Sources Written About Shakespeare

Example

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

 

Useful Resource

Check out this fun yet useful resource to learn more about Shakespeare’s works.

Bard Web

Creating works cited entries for works about Shakespeare and his plays, follows the same pattern as any other author. Using the MLA Container System and following the core elements helps you organize your sources correctly.

About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico. As Editor-in-Chief of SJSU School of Information SRJ. Adrienne guided the editorial team through the scholarly journal’s double-blind, peer reviewed process to provide quality, cited articles to library information and science researchers. Her passion for digital inclusion and information literacy led her to volunteer as a digital training team member of Librarians Without Borders. Adrienne has over 25 years of experience as a freelance writer and editor.

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