How to Cite a Play In MLA Style Format (With Examples)

Why Do College Students Cite Plays?

Regardless if you are writing an assignment for Shakespeare’s month homework or plan to start with a play for a college project, citing a famous play in MLA format often becomes necessary. It is also the safest way to avoid plagiarism issues. The tricky part, however, is to provide relevant information and do things rightfully because you may easily end up with a deducted grade if you make a style mistake. Therefore, it is vital to quote drama, poetry, or plays in a correct way as is stated in Modern Language Association (MLA) manual. As you will learn from our MLA play guide, it does not work the same way as when you are dealing with prose. 

The Most Common Play Citation Rules in MLA 

Learning how to cite a play in MLA, you should follow these conventions: 

  • Your quotation must be set off from your other text. 
  • Each part that you implement in a play's dialogue should start with an appropriate character's credentials or the name. 
  • Each name mentioned in a play must have an inch indent. It appears from the left margin. 
  • Character names must be written in all capital letters (ex. JOHN, DR. DUNCAN). 
  • The name must be followed with a period by continuing with a quotation. 
  • All the upcoming lines must have an indent in the character's speech. 
  • If you have to switch in the dialogue of the play from character to character, each new line must come with half an inch indent. This pattern must follow all through the quote that you use. 

Regardless of your play, quotations must include the author's name, the full title of the play, scene, and line numbers for your in-text citations. If you can provide a page, it is essential as well.

MLA Play Citation Example 

The most common play citation pattern looks this way:  

In-text play MLA citation: 

Here is how to cite a play in text: 

(Playwright last name page number) 

(Jones 24) 

Works Cited 

Playwright Last Name, First Name. Play Title / Publication. Publisher, edition (if available), publication year. 

It appears as: 

Jones, Simon Andrew. Iron Starfleet. HB Press, 2019. 

For those cases when you mention the play's act, scene, or lines that are spoken, quote a play this way: 

(Osbourne 1.4.134-137) 

At the same time, you can provide lines of the play as an alternative. It should add the word "Line(s)" to clarify what exactly you are citing: 

(Socrates, lines 11-13) 

(Laney 22-24) 

When you have to cite a live play performance in MLA style format, follow this template: 

Author's Last Name, First name. Play Title. Directed by Director's First Name Last Name, Publisher, Day Month Year, Theater Name, City. Performance.

An actual live play citation example: 

Frowijn, Marcel, et al. The Great Sacrifice. Directed by Anneke Van Dijk and Sam Smith, 19 May. 2013, Holocaust Memorial & Dutch Theater (Jewish Cultural Quarter), Amsterdam. Play. 

How to Quote a Play Dialogue in MLA Style?

One of the most challenging aspects of quoting a play is including an actual dialogue. The most common rules have already been outlined above, yet it is always good to see an example of a play dialogue in MLA. 

Here is how citing a play with dialogue looks like:

When the play becomes intense, it is best portrayed by the way how Andrew Smith and Isabelle interact during their meeting at the Sugar Creek: 

ANDREW SMITH. Do you know why they could not let you know about their
                leaving? 
ISABELLE. I do not care why they have left because no one cares about people
                of color. I did not even know that you were there. I worked hard in the garden,
                I did all the laundry and all of you did not even notice what I have done. I am
                just like an invisible person. 
ANDREW SMITH. I always noticed you! It was you who could not see anyone
                but herself. It is the color of your soul that matters! 

The most important is to provide relevant indents and add character names in CAPS as shown in the example above. As can be seen from the example above, your MLA play citation should also provide a basic introduction before you quote.

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