How to Cite a Play in MHRA Referencing
  • 4-minute read
  • 15th September 2021

How to Cite a Play in MHRA Referencing

If you are citing a play in your writing, you will need to know how to reference it correctly. In this post, we will demonstrate how to cite either a standalone play or a play from a collection using MHRA referencing.

Citing a Single Play in MHRA Referencing

In MHRA referencing, you cite sources in footnotes. To do this, you will need to add a superscript footnote number in the place where you are citing your source:

We see this in Shakespeare’s tragic romance about the Egyptian queen.1

You will then need to provide source information in the accompanying footnote.

For the first citation of a single play (i.e. a play published as a standalone book or work), you should use the following format:

n. Playwright Name(s), Play Title, ed. by Editor Name(s) (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), Act. Scene. Line no. OR p. x.

The final part of the citation here is the specific part of the play you’re citing. How you note this in the citation will depend on how the play is formatted:

  • For plays that are divided into acts and scenes, list the act numbers with small capital Roman numerals, and scene and line numbers with Arabic numerals.
  • For plays without acts and scenes, or parts of a play that don’t use these divisions (e.g. an introduction before the script begins), use the abbreviations ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ followed by the relevant page number or page range, respectively.

You can see how this would look in practice via the example below:

1. William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra, ed. by Emrys Jones (London: Penguin Books, 1977), V. 2. 180–189.

Here, for example, we’re citing act five, scene two, lines 180 to 189 of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, with full bibliographic detail of the source provided.

Citing a Play from an Edited Collection

The footnote format for citing a play from a collection is slightly different:

n. Playwright Name(s), ‘Play Title’, in Collection Title, ed. by Editor Name(s) (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), pp. X–X (Act. Scene. Line no. OR p. x).

The key here is that the play name is given in quotation marks, not italics, after which we give the publication details of the container volume.

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In addition, we include the page range for the full play after the publication details, and then a pinpoint citation is provided in parentheses afterwards.

In practice, then, the first citation for a play from a collection would look like this:

2. Henrik Ibsen, ‘An Enemy of the People’, in A Doll’s House and Other Plays, trans. by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik, ed. by Tore Rem (London: Penguin Books, 2016), pp. 309–320 (III. 21).

Here, for instance, we’re citing act three, line 21 from ‘An Enemy of the People’, which appears in A Doll’s House and Other Plays between pages 309 and 320.

Citing a Play More than Once

If you cite the same play more than once in your writing, you can use a shortened footnote citation for each citation after the first. Typically, this means using the author’s surname and a new pinpoint citation for the part of the text being cited. For instance, to cite the play above again we would write:

3. Shakespeare, IV. 4. 11–21.
4. Ibsen, II. 10–11.

If you are citing more than one play by the same author, though, you may need to use a shortened play title as well as or instead of the author’s surname in repeat citations. For more information, see our blog post on repeat citations in MHRA.

Adding a Play in an MHRA Bibliography

Every source you cite should also be added to your bibliography. The format here is largely the same as in the first footnote citation, except:

  • The author’s surname and first name should be reversed. This ensures that sources are listed alphabetically by the author’s surname.
  • You don’t need any pinpoint citations (e.g. page or line numbers).
  • There are no full stops at the end of MHRA bibliography entries.
  • Each entry should use a hanging indent for each line after the first.

For example, the plays above would be referenced accordingly:

Ibsen, Henrik, ‘An Enemy of the People’, in A Doll’s House and Other Plays, trans. by Deborah Dawkin and Erik Skuggevik, ed. by Tore Rem (London: Penguin Books, 2016), pp. 309–320

Shakespeare, William, Antony and Cleopatra, ed. by Emrys Jones (London: Penguin Books, 1977)

Hopefully, this has helped you understand how to cite plays using MHRA referencing. For more support, try our expert MHRA proofreading service!

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