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Plays and poetry


Poet, 'Poem', Title of book poem is in (Place of Publication: Publisher, year), page extent.

Sylvia Plath, ‘Elm’, Ariel (London: Faber and Faber, 1968), 18.


Author/Poet, Title (Place of Publication: Publisher, year).

Plath, Sylvia, Ariel (London: Faber and Faber, 1968).

Shakespeare, William, The Tempest, ed. Martin Butler (London: Penguin, 2007).

Shakespeare, William, The Winter’s Tale, ed. Ernest Schanzer (London: Penguin, 2005).


General Poetry

  • Poetry and plays are considered specialist sources with their own in-text formatting style.
  • When discussing a reference in your essay, the format is ‘Act, Scene, line’. Act and Scene are always capitalised; line is always lower-case.
  • You do not need to include a footnote if you cite the quote in full in the body of the essay. For example, if quoting a stanza or a larger unit from a poem in your essay, it would look similar to this:

I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
Add day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.
                                                 (Sylvia Plath, ‘Elm’, Ariel)

  • With the example above, writing (Sylvia Plath, ‘Elm’, Ariel) is a sufficient in-text reference. A footnote is not required because all of the information is cited in-text. The full citation for the book is still included in the bibliography.
  • For general poetry without line references, when including a block of quote, as above, it should be cited as (Author, ‘Poem title’, Book title if relevant)
  • If quoting a poem from course material, it should be cited in the footnote as (Author, ‘Poem title’); in the bibliography as (Author, ‘Poem title’ in ‘Subject Code Course Reader’, compiled by Lecturer Name, La Trobe University, 2013).


  • When referencing Shakespeare, if you include all of the relevant details in (parentheses) after a quote, you do not need to repeat those details in a footnote. The example below cites the (Abbreviated title, Act. Scene. line/s) within the sentence:

Hermione responds to Polixenes’ description of their childhood with, “By this we gather / You have tripped since” (WT, I. ii. 76-6), which continues the theme of a fall.

  • The formatting style quoted above is the New Hart's Rules standard for Shakespearean references.
  • The bibliography entry should still appear like a normal book, with the standard format of Author, Title, ed. Name if relevant (City of Publication: Publisher, year). For example:

Shakespeare, William, The Winter’s Tale, ed. Ernest Schanzer (London: Penguin, 2005).

  • An indented block of a play should be cited as (Play Title or Abbreviation, Act. Scene. line/s). In the example below, WT stands for The Winter’s Tale. The full title is acceptable, but can be tiring to write all the time. If you use the abbreviation, use it consistently.

As thou lov’st me, Camillo, wipe not out the
Rest of thy services by leaving me now. The need I have
Of thee thine own goodness hath made. Better not to
Have had thee than thus to want thee. (WT, IV. ii. 10-13)

  • If you are only writing about one text you can leave out the title when quoting in text and just refer to the Act, Scene and line numbers immediately after the quote, i.e. instead of (Othello, I. iii. 247), just write (I. iii. 247) as all the references will be to Othello and it doesn’t need restating with every reference.
  • When discussing multiple Shakespeare titles, use the same format but include the abbreviated title of the play, e.g. (Oth., I. iii. 247) for a reference to Othello or (Tmp., V. i. 30-5) for a reference to The Tempest.
  • R.M. Ritter, New Hart's Rules (2nd edn, Oxford: OUP, 2014, p.150) recommends the following abbreviations for Shakespeare titles (for the comprehensive list see section 8.4):

Ham. (Hamlet)
WT (The Winter’s Tale)
MND (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Tmp. (The Tempest)
AWW (All’s Well That Ends Well)
AYL (As You Like It)
TN (Twelfth Night)
Lr. (King Lear)
R3 (Richard III)
JC (Julius Cesar)
Rom. (Romeo and Juliet)
Mac. (Macbeth)
MM (Measure for Measure)
Oth. (Othello)