How to reference a play

  • Key things to remember when referencing plays in MHRA

    • The bibliography needs to be arranged alphabetically by author surname, so always reverse the name of the playwright in the bibliography reference. 
    • If the play is anonymous (as is the case with some older plays), do not use 'Anon.' Instead start the reference with the title of the play.
    • If the play is part of a collection or anthology, put play title in single quotation marks and the collection title in italics.
    • In footnote references you need to specify the section of the play you are citing or quoting, including act, scene and line numbers if these are available, separated by full stops. For acts of plays, use roman numerals (e.g. VIII or viii) . These can be upper or lower case but be consistent. For scenes and lines, use regular arabic numerals (e.g. 2). Note that unlike references to poems, you do not include ‘l.’ for ‘line’ or ‘ll.’ for ‘lines’. If the play doesn’t have scenes, or if you’re citing the introduction, use page numbers in the form ‘p.’ for ‘page’ or ‘pp.’ for ‘pages’.  In the bibliography you are referencing the whole book.
    • Put a full stop at the end of footnote references, but not at the end of bibliography references.

    For further guidance check the MHRA Style Guide on referencing plays and long works (11.2.7)

    Referencing a single play

    Use this format when you are referencing a play published individually.

    Footnote format: Firstname Lastname, Play Title, ed. by Firstname Lastname (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), Act. Scene. Line no. OR p. x.  

    For example:

    William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. by John Dover Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), III. 4. 139-155.


    Bibliography format: Lastname, Firstname, Play Title, ed. by Firstname Lastname (Place of publication: Publisher, Year)  

    For example:

    Shakespeare, William, Hamlet, ed. by John Dover Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

    Referencing a play in an anthology

    Use this format when you are referencing a play published as part of a collection or anthology. 

    Footnote format: Firstname Lastname, ‘Play Title, in Collection Title (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), Act. Scene. Line no. OR p. x.
    If there is an editor: Firstname Lastname, ‘Play Title’, in Collection Title, ed. by Firstname Lastname (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), Act. Scene. Line no. OR p. x 

    For example:

    Sarah Kane, ‘Crave’, in Complete Plays (London: Methuen Drama, 2001), p. 165.

    Thomas Heywood, ‘A Woman Killed with Kindness’, in Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments, 2ndedn, ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), VIII. 102-104.

    ‘The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham’, in Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments, 2nd edn, ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), XIV. 223-225.


    Bibliography format: Lastname, Firstname, ‘Play Title’, in Collection Title (Place of publication: Publisher, Year) 

    If there is an editor: Lastname, Firstname, ‘Play Title in Collection Title, ed. by Firstname Lastname (Place of publication: Publisher, Year) 

    For example:

    Kane, Sarah, ‘Crave’, in Complete Plays (London: Methuen Drama, 2001)

    Heywood, Thomas, ‘A Woman Killed with Kindness’, in Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments, 2nd edn, ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005) 

    ‘The Tragedy of Master Arden of Faversham’, in Renaissance Drama: An Anthology of Plays and Entertainments, 2nd edn, ed. by Arthur F. Kinney (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)