How to Cite Acts & Scenes Within an Essay

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Using a play as a source in your essay is quite possible. However, citing individual scenes and acts can become confusing. No matter what writing style guide you follow, MLA or APA, you must also consider capitalization and author attributions. In fact, both styles have similar rules on capitalization and attribution when citing plays in an essay. Such small details can make giving credit to the source of the material a difficult step. Fortunately, there are a few key things to remember when citing acts and scenes of plays in an essay.

  • Capitalize the words “act” and “scene” when using them to name a specific location in the playbook. An example is the sentence, “The dolls in Act 4, Scene 2 of the play secretly belonged to the mother.” Use numbers and not Roman numerals in your citation.

  • Make a citation at the end of the sentence when the act and scene are not mentioned in the sentence. Place the act number, a period and the scene number first, followed by a comma. Add the line numbers that encompass the referenced material. Encircle this with parenthesis.

  • Check the end-of-sentence citation against this example. The citation should read: (4.2. 345-67). This in-text citation is referring to the material in lines 345 to 367. Add the last name of the author to citation if the author's name isn't mentioned in the sentence: (Shakespeare, 4.2.345-67).

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