The Correct Way to Cite Shakespeare

The proper way to cite Shakespeare quotations.

1. When citing a line from the play in your essay, do the following:

Hamlet first learns of his father’s murder and contemplates Claudius’ true nature.  “That one may smile and smile and be a villain. / At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark” (1.5.115-116).

Note the following from the example above:

  • “1” refers to the act of the play.
  • “5” refers to the scene of the act.
  • “115-116″ refer to the lines that are quoted.
  • The act, scene, and line numbers are separated by periods (2.3.107-109).
  • The “/” signifies the end of a line. It requires a space before and after the slash.
  • The punctuation, spelling, and other grammatical matters are cited exactly as they appear in the text.

2. Longer quotations (four or more lines), however, should be set off. Indent 10 spaces (instead of the usual 5) for each new line.  Note: block quotations are not enclosed in quotation marks and do not require a slash to separate lines or a period after the line citation. The content needs to be integrated into your paragraph, as in the following:

After viewing an impromptu performance from the traveling troupe of actors, Hamlet criticizes himself for not feeling deeply enough:

          O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I?

           Is it not monstrous that this player here,

           But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,

           Could force his soul to his own conceit (2.2.577-580)

3.  If you quote dialogue between two or more characters in a play, set the quotation off from your text.  Begin each part of the dialogue with the appropriate character’s name indented 10 spaces from the left margin and typed in all capital letters (i.e. HAMLET.).  Follow the name with a period, a space, and start the quotation.  Indent all subsequent lines in that character’s speech an additional 3 spaces.  When the dialogue shifts to another character, start a new line and again indent 10 spaces. 

Hamlet interrogates Ophelia about her honesty and chastity, implying that she is neither honest nor chaste:

          HAMLET.  Ha, ha, are you honest?

          OPHELIA.  My lord?

          HAMLET. Are you fair?

          OPHELIA. What means your lordship?

          HAMLET.  That if you be honest and fair, (your honesty)

              Should admit no discourse to your beauty. (3.1.113-118)

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