How to Cite Shakespeare in APA Referencing

How to Cite Shakespeare in APA Referencing

To cite, or not to cite? – That is the question. But many referencing systems have special rules for citing The Bard, so the second question might be ‘How do I cite it?’ Here, then, we take a look at how to cite Shakespeare in APA referencing as part of an academic paper.

The face of a man who knows his name will one day become an adjective.
The face of a man who knows his name will one day become an adjective.

How to Cite Shakespeare in APA Referencing

Citing Shakespeare in APA means giving the author’s surname and the year of publication for the edition you’re referencing. For an edition of a play that has been ‘translated’ into modern English, moreover, you should include ‘trans.’ before the year in the citation:

Hamlet is a play concerned with death (Shakespeare, trans. 2004).

If you’re quoting or paraphrasing a Shakespeare play, give a pinpoint citation as well. However, rather than a page number, this will mean giving act, scene, and line numbers. For instance:

Yorick is ‘a fellow of infinite jest’ (Shakespeare, 1992, 5.1.191-192).

Here, for example, we’re citing act five, scene one, lines 191-192 of Hamlet.

Listing Shakespeare in an APA Reference List

The format for a Shakespeare play in an APA reference list should include the names of any editors or translators. APA also suggests providing a date of original publication for republished texts:

Surname, First Initial. (Year of Publication or Translation). Title of play. (Translator Initial(s). Surname(s), Trans.). Editor Initial(s). Surname(s). (Ed.). Place of Publication: Publisher. (Original work published date)

If your edition of the play does not have a translator or an editor, simply leave out these details. In practice, then, we would list an edited version of Hamlet in the original Shakespearean English like this:

Shakespeare, W. (1992). Hamlet, prince of Denmark. C. Watts & K. Carabine (Eds.). Ware, England: Wordsworth Editions. (Original work published 1599)

Online Editions of Shakespeare Texts

The format is a little different for an online version of a text. In this case, you will need to provide a date for when the text was uploaded or last updated, as well as a URL for where it can be found:

Shakespeare, W. (2016). Hamlet, prince of Denmark. B. Mowat & P. Werstine (Eds.). Retrieved from https://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/html/Ham.html#line-1.3.0

Summary: How to Cite Shakespeare in APA Referencing

To cite Shakespeare in APA referencing, you need to include:

  1. The author’s surname
  2. The date of publication/translation into modern English
  3. The act, scene, and line numbers for the section quoted or paraphrased

Furthermore, in the reference list, as well as naming any editors or translators for the edition used, you may want to provide a date of original publication. For example, we could cite an edition of Hamlet like this:

Shakespeare, W. (1992). Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. C. Watts & K. Carabine (Eds.). Ware, England: Wordsworth Editions. (Original work published 1599)

And if you’d like some help checking the references in your writing, whether or not they include Billy the Bard, we’re always here for you.

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