I've gone through several different resources that appeared in the Google search bar when I asked this question, but the sources give different answers to this question:

When referencing a play name in an MLA-formatted essay, should I underline it, put it in quotes, or italicize it?

I have a final draft of an essay due in a few days, but I can't figure out which one I should use. Most sources point to underlining or italicizing; not quotes. However, that's still two different answers I'm receiving. If any of you know for sure what is expected in an MLA paper, your response is greatly appreciated.

Edit: The most reliable and sensible answer I found so far mentioned that back in the age of typewriters, it was underlined, but nowadays it is italicized. If any of you can confirm this notion, please feel free to do so.


2 Answers 2



Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square-Pocket, 1992.

I just searched for examples. I found this site: http://www.mystfx.ca/resources/writingcentre/MLA_Citing%20Sources.pdf, and I used that info. I think that most scripts of plays are republished in books or collections (which are books). You can always add more info after the date, in parentheses, if you think it's useful. I would probably add "play" at the end, so I could jump to it using a find feature in a text editor. The safer bet would be to add the info at the end, but my preference would be to add it after the title. I doubt I would receive any complaints, either way.

Also, most of the names of works in the works cited section are italicized, articles and sections being the big exception. I also remember finding some works-cited example pages at .edu websites doing a keyword search for +hamlet site: .edu or something similar. I found a site that told how to cite a "live play".

This is a quote from that site:

Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacoby, and Julia Christie. The Globe Theatre, London. 27 Dec. 1991. Performance.

  • Given that the questioner has already found numerous non-authoritative sources, this doesn't seem like a very useful answer without a link to the authoritative source where you found this.
    – Peter Taylor
    Oct 11, 2011 at 6:15
  • As long as you are sure of it, then it is accepted.
    – Mxyk
    Oct 11, 2011 at 12:06
  • @MikeGates and PeterTaylor My bad. I'll edit. Jan 5, 2012 at 1:56

I agree with Wolfpack. For future reference, the general rule is that if the work comes in multiple parts, (chapters, acts, scenes... whatever) then the title is italicized. If it comes in only one part (short story, article, etc.) then it gets quotation marks. Of course, there are articles that have multiple parts, and plays that have only one scene, so it's not an absolute rule.

Maybe better to say that if the form of literature, in its most typical form, has more than one part, then italics.

Might also be better to say long gets italics, short gets quotations, but apparently somebody wanted to make the rule a little more complicated than that!

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