How to Cite Acts & Scenes Within an Essay

By Jonita Davis
Cite a play in your essay in a few easy steps.

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).

Tip

It isn't necessary to include the act and scene numbers in the essay, especially in areas where you concentrate on the same act and scene. Use the end-of-sentence citation instead to point out the lines being mentioned in the text.

Do not place quotes around the act/scene and the numeral that corresponds to them when citing in the essay. Place the name of the play in italics but not the act and scene names.

Do not capitalize the words “act” and “scene” unless they are referring to a location in the play. When mentioning the act in general, the word remains lowercased. For example, “The brush wasn't important in the scene. It did appear again in the next act, however.” In that example, the words “act” and “scene” were lowercased because they were not referring to the exact locations within the play.

About the Author

Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Work.com. Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.