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220 Citation Guide

Page history last edited by Eric Leonidas 1 year, 1 month ago

Shakespeare Papers: How to Quote and Cite the Plays


1.  Your first impulse should be to paraphrase, not quote. I could write, "Olivia reveals her interest in Cesario by sending a ring."  Here I do not have to quote Olivia's precise language, since I'm only offering some basic plot information.  On the other hand, maybe I think a word or two is important.  I still may not need a lengthy quote.  For instance,


Referring to her new love as a "plague" (1.5.265), Olivia returns a ring that Cesario supposedly left, "Would I or not," she says (1.5.272).  Her choice of words suggests a lack of agency.  She implies she has no choice whether to love or to accept the ring.  Nonetheless, her act in contriving the ring "message" to Cessario clearly shows her readiness to pursue for herself just what she wants.


Notice that I've quoted just the words I need to make my point.  I've indicated that they're quotations by putting them in double quote-marks, and I've provided a citation in parentheses (OUTSIDE the quotation marks).  Notice, too, that I've analyzed my quote (however briefly).  In other words I've made clear to the reader just what I think the words mean:  not literally (everyone knows what a plague is) but figuratively.  Typically, one doesn't seek plagues, a woman in mourning doesn't seek rings and, by extension, a new love.  Except this time!


*Please note as well that I did not explain, in my prose, that the remark takes place in the fifth scene of the first act, at line 265.  This information simply isn't relevant beyond looking up the quotation. Unless it's vitally important that the reader know what act or scene something takes place in--an identification that wouldn't be served by "near the beginning," or "at the conclusion"--keep the act/scene/line notation out of your prose.  Put it in the parenthetical citations.


2.  If you feel you need to give a full context of one or two significant words, go ahead and quote a few lines.  Use block format:

  • indent
  • NO quotation marks
  • citation in parentheses AFTER punctuation (note that this is different from "running in" quotations, as above, where the sequence is 1) close the quotation; 2) provide the parenthetical act.scene.line; 3) provide the punctuation, usually a comma or period.


You wont' need Shakespeare's name in the parentheses, because Shakespeare and the play title should be clear from the first line of your paper.  Here's an example:


Thou kill’st me in his life; giving him breath,

The traitor lives, the true man’s put to death.  (5.3.73-74)


Note that I’ve preserved the line breaks (this only applies to poetry).  "But wait," you're thinking, "that quotation makes no sense to me," and you're right.  Wouldn't everything be better if I introduced the quotation this way?


Astonished to find that Henry intends to pardon the plotting Aumerle, the Duke of York insists that Henry has his priorities exactly backward and that the results are likely to be extremely destructive:


Thou kill’st me in his life; giving him breath,

The traitor lives, the true man’s put to death.  (5.3.73-74)


York plainly declares that Henry has to choose between loyalty and treason: kill him or kill me.  There's no room for the kinds of compromise here that Richard attempts earlier in the play.  In pardoning Aumerle, Henry would begin his reign with an act of absolute injustice: sentencing  to death a "true man"--a man who is true, and a being whose truth proves that he's a real man.


The quotation could benefit from even more analysis, but for now notice that I've used my "signal phrase" (introducing the quotation) to indicate who is speaking, what he's speaking about, and what the point of the speech is.  Now I don't even need that silly little "York" to identify the speaker.  In general, you should think of all citations, expecially direct quotations of the play, as existing in a SANDWICH (notice the sandwich-like shape of the lines above).  You need a slice of bread introducing a quotation, then the meat, then a very generous slice of bread underneath the meat.  Remember too that a satisfying sandwich needs an especially hearty bottom slice of analysis, otherwise the whole thing falls apart.


3.  Don’t over-quote.  You should analyze 3-5 passages, but you surely won’t need to quote all of them in full.  Generally, you shouldn’t be putting more than 3-4 lines in a quote at any one time.  It would simply take too much analysis to make sense of more than 6 lines.


4.  Works Cited list.  At the end of your paper include a “list” of the works you refer to in the paper.  I expect it will have only one work, your edition of Shakespeare.  If you do use outside sources please cite them as well, both within the text and in your Works Cited list.  A note: there are thousands of Shakespeare web sites.  Most are junk, and very few will help you with this assignment, which asks you to read a few passages closely.  There isn’t much of that on the web.  Here's what your Works Cited should look like, with our edition (look here for a guide to formatting other versions of the play).


Works Cited


Shakespeare, William.  The Merchant of VeniceThe Norton Shakespeare, edited by Stephen Greenblatt et al., 3rd ed., Norton, 2008, pages 1121-1175.



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