How Do You Cite Plays In An Essay

Ask the MLAin-text citations

How do I quote stage directions?

There are different traditions for formatting stage directions, even in publications of the same play. When quoting stage directions, your aim should be consistency.

It is most common to find stage directions in italics, and you should replicate them:

After Levan states that Homais “faints,” the stage directions detail what happens next: “She sinks down in a Chair, he falls at her feet” (22).

If it’s not clear from context that you are quoting stage directions, indicate this in your in-text citation:

Manly’s scene concludes on a passionate image: “She sinks down in a Chair, he falls at her feet” (22 [stage direction])

To indicate that the quoted material is a stage direction, some scholars use the abbreviation sd after the line number: (120sd). But in an essay that is not specialized in theater history, it would be better to avoid mystifying your readers with that technical detail.

Stage directions typically appear in parentheses or square brackets. When quoting stage directions and dialogue together, follow your source’s use of parentheses or square brackets if you can:

“Her salt tears fell from her, and soft’ned the stones,
   Sing willow”—
Lay by these—
[Singing.] “—willow, willow”—
Prithee hie thee; he’ll come anon—
[Singing.]
“Sing all a green willow must be my garland.
Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve.”

But if you quote from sources with variant practices, choose one method for enclosing stage directions and be consistent.

The names of the characters in stage directions are often given in different ways—roman and all capital letters, small capitals, or a combination—but in your manuscript simply make them italic, with the rest of the stage direction:

Enter Nurse wringing her hands, . . .

Formatting

Summary:

This handout provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.

Contributors:Mark Dollar, Purdue OWL
Last Edited: 2017-10-25 10:18:45

What about MLA format?

All research papers on literature use MLA format, as it is the universal citation method for the field of literary studies. Whenever you use a primary or secondary source, whether you are quoting or paraphrasing, you will make parenthetical citations in the MLA format [Ex. (Smith 67).] Your Works Cited list will be the last page of your essay. Consult the OWL handout on MLA for further instructions.

Note, however, the following minor things about MLA format:

  • Titles of books, plays, or works published singularly (not anthologized) should be italicised unless it is a handwritten document, in which case underlining is acceptable. (Ex. Hamlet, Great Expectations)
  • Titles of poems, short stories, or works published in an anthology will have quotation marks around them. (Ex. "Ode to a Nightingale," "The Cask of Amontillado")
  • All pages in your essay should have your last name the page number in the top right hand corner. (Ex. Jones 12)
    Tip

    If you're using Microsoft Word, you can easily include your name and page number on each page by following the these steps:

    1. Open "View" (on the top menu).
    2. Open "Header and Footer." (A box will appear at the top of the page you're on. And a "Header and Footer" menu box will also appear).
    3. Click on the "align right" button at the top of the screen. (If you're not sure which button it is, hold the mouse over the buttons and a small window should pop up telling you which button you're on.)
    4. Type in your last name and a space.
    5. Click on the "#" button which is located on the "Header and Footer" menu box. It will insert the appropriate page number.
    6. Click "Close" on the "Header and Footer" window.

    That's all you need to do. Word will automatically insert your name and the page number on every page of your document.

What else should I remember?

  • Don't leave a quote or paraphrase by itself-you must introduce it, explain it, and show how it relates to your thesis.
  • Block format all quotations of more than four lines.
  • When you quote brief passages of poetry, line and stanza divisions are shown as a slash (Ex. "Roses are red, / Violets are blue / You love me / And I like you").
  • For more help, see the OWL handout on using quotes.

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