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English Faculty Library Services: Plays and Poetry


MHRA makes a distinction between how to reference long poems and short poems. A long poem would be a substantial piece of a single poetic work that may be identified through the inclusion of multiple movements or parts, and could be published as a singular work (usually something like an epic poem). By contrast a short poem would be a discrete, individual part with its own title and internal structure, even if it is generally published as part of an overall sequence. So, for example, a sonnet in Edmund Spenser's Amoretti would be a short poem, while Spenser's The Faerie Queene would be a long poem.  

Long Poem

Long poems are cited like Plays, where if it is printed on its own then it is considered a whole, and if it is printed in a collection then it is still considered a large part, even though it is part of a larger thing.  
William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman, ed. by A.V.C. Schmidt, 2nd edn  (London: Everyman, 1995), XIV. 329-332. 
Beowulf , in Anglo-Saxon Poetry, ed. and trans. by S.A.J. Bradley (London: Everyman, 1982, 1995), pp.408-494, XVI. 1058-1062. 

For more details on long poems, see section 11.2.7 of the MHRA Style Guide or section vii of the Faculty Guide

Short Poem

Short poems are cited like short stories, or chapters in a book, where the title of the individual poem is in inverted commas, and the overall title of the publication is in italics.   
T. S.  Eliot, ‘The Rum Tum Tugger’, in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (London: Faber & Faber, 1939), pp. 11-12, in Proquest One Literature  <https://www-proquest-com > [accessed 20 May 2020]. 
Teresia Teaiwa, ‘Fear of Flying (in Broken Gilbertese)’, in Poetry, July/August 2016, < 
> [accessed 20 May 2020]. 
Aoife Lyall, ‘No flowers: by request’, in Mother, Nature (Hexham: Bloodaxe Books, 2021), p. 17.


For more information on how to present titles of short poems, see section 7.3 of the MHRA Style Guide or the subsection ‘Titles’ of the Faculty Guide. For more examples of referencing poetry from databases, see section 11.2.14 of the MHRA Style Guide.  


Plays can be relatively easy to format, but the reference can look somewhat different depending on where you are finding them.  

The basic format is: 
Playwright, Title of Play, Editor or Translator if applicable (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year) Act. Scene. Line. 

MHRA specifies to use Roman numerals for referring to the number of acts in a play, and Arabic numbers for subsequent scenes, cantos, chapters, lines, etc. This can seem confusing if the play which you are referencing doesn’t have any or all of those things. So just keep in mind that you are trying to point to where this line or section is located as specifically as possible, but that not all plays follow the same formatting. So when in doubt, use Roman numerals for the largest subsections of the play however it is formatted, and then Arabic numbers for as many further subsections as there are.

For more details, see section 11.2.7 of the MHRA Style Guide or section vii of the Faculty Guide.  

Plays published as a single title

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus (London: Methuen & Co, 1976), IV. 5. 29.

Tom Stoppard, Travesties (London: Faber Faber, 1975), I. p.15.

Marina Carr, By the Bog of Cats (London: Faber and Faber, 2004),  I.3 p.11 < www-dramaonlinelibrary-com > [Accessed 2 February 2022] 

Jack Davis, The Dreamers (Currency Press, 1996),  I.2.p.16,  Proquest Ebook Central. 

Play in an anthology

William Shakespeare, 'The Merry Wives of Windsor', in The Norton Shakespeare, ed. by Stephen Greenblatt and others (New York: WW Norton & Co), pp.1225-1291, I. 1. 120. 

Oscar Wilde, 'The Importance of Being Earnest', in The Norton Anthlogy of English Literature, ed. By M.H. Abrams and others, 7th edn (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2001), pp. 2177-2221, II. p.2195.


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