Taking any modern language courses will mean that you will need to know how to accurately cite the sources you utilize when writing essays. Plagiarism (or taking credit for the work or words of other authors) has become a serious issue and intellectual property theft is as serious as the theft of physical property. It is, therefore, extremely important that you give credit to the owner of any works you use and not attempt to pass it off as your own. There are a number of online resources used by school professionals that can instantly search databases and show how much of your work is plagiarized. The most popular format for citing plays is that of the Modern Language Association, known as the MLA format.
Step One: The basics of citation
Using double quotation marks for inline citations and the proper formatting when citing blocks of text are important. Depending on the guidelines of your institution, incorrect formatting may also be viewed as plagiarism (and may generally get you a lower grade). When citing a line for a play, you must use a lead-in that describes the line you will be including for the reader. Never place quotations in your work without a lead-in.
Step Two: Format for citation
Plays are cited using the author’s last name followed by the act, scene and speech number, which is then enclosed in parentheses (Author’s name.act.scene.speech number). The downside to needing to include a speech number is that many plays do not have them and you will have to count each speech yourself. If the play does not include scene numbers they can be omitted.
Step Three: Citing one to three lines of a play
One to three lines of speech or monologue is quoted by starting with a lead-in and writing verbatim (word for word) the lines the character says in quotation marks. The lines will be followed by the citation as described above.
Step Four: Citing four or more lines of speech
Quotation marks are not used for long lines (four or more lines) of speech. Instead, end the lead-in with a colon and begin a new line. Then make an indentation of 10 spaces to create what is called a ‘block quote’. End the block quote with the same format of citation as described in step two.
Step Five: Citing lines from plays that take place between two or more characters
Sets of dialogue between two or more characters is also quoted using block format. Following the lead-in, the characters names are typed in all capital letters and a new line is used for each new character’s speech. Again, remember to cite the play as described in step two.
Step Six: Double-check
If you think you may have made an error in formatting, the MLA has a number of resources available that will show you the correct formatting for citing plays and other literary works.
Tips and Warnings
- At times you will not need to directly quote lines from the play but uses a section of a line. Include parentheses enclosing three full stops (“¦) to indicate where you have excluded a section of speech.