How To Quote Stage Directions In An Essay

Ask the MLAin-text citations

How do I quote stage directions?

There are different traditions for formatting stage directions, even in publications of the same play. When quoting stage directions, your aim should be consistency.

It is most common to find stage directions in italics, and you should replicate them:

After Levan states that Homais “faints,” the stage directions detail what happens next: “She sinks down in a Chair, he falls at her feet” (22).

If it’s not clear from context that you are quoting stage directions, indicate this in your in-text citation:

Manly’s scene concludes on a passionate image: “She sinks down in a Chair, he falls at her feet” (22 [stage direction])

To indicate that the quoted material is a stage direction, some scholars use the abbreviation sd after the line number: (120sd). But in an essay that is not specialized in theater history, it would be better to avoid mystifying your readers with that technical detail.

Stage directions typically appear in parentheses or square brackets. When quoting stage directions and dialogue together, follow your source’s use of parentheses or square brackets if you can:

“Her salt tears fell from her, and soft’ned the stones,
   Sing willow”—
Lay by these—
[Singing.] “—willow, willow”—
Prithee hie thee; he’ll come anon—
[Singing.]
“Sing all a green willow must be my garland.
Let nobody blame him, his scorn I approve.”

But if you quote from sources with variant practices, choose one method for enclosing stage directions and be consistent.

The names of the characters in stage directions are often given in different ways—roman and all capital letters, small capitals, or a combination—but in your manuscript simply make them italic, with the rest of the stage direction:

Enter Nurse wringing her hands, . . .

If you make the mistake of misquoting stage directions, you may be charged with plagiarism. Playwrights use specific stage directions to support the dialogue of a play and in some cases the stage directions for a scene may be more essential to the crafting of the story than the dialogue of the characters. A well-written stage direction can give clarity to a scene that will guide the performer towards an informed acting choice, so when taking a stage direction out of context it is imperative it is properly quoted.

Highlight the stage directions you wish to quote, this will help you quick reference the text you are quoting while you type or write. Some authors use abstracted formats for creative purposes when writing their stage directions . It is always best to try and retain the exact formatting of the text.

Type the stage directions in their exact wording surrounded by quotes. Some stage directions are written in the play using italics, inside parentheses or brackets; these tools help the original author differentiate between the action and the spoken word at a glance. Setting aside the stage directions in such a way also assists the performers and directors make quick reference to the text. When quoting stage directions inside a written document it is not necessary to use the italics, unless you are quoting a passage of text with both stage directions and dialogue. In the latter case you would use the italics for the stage directions and surround the entire passage with quotes. Stay true to the playwright's work.

Cite your source with the name of the play, the playwright, the act number and scene number; for example "Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare, Act III scene I. Use Roman Numerals for the act and scene numbers. Quoting stage directions is similar to quoting any written source. Playwrights have fought hard to have their stage directions to remain copy-written. If you use a stage direction inside another text without citing the source you will be committing plagiarism.

Add a bibliography to your writing with the title of the play, the playwright, the publisher (if the play is published), the act number, scene number and the page number from which you extracted the quote. You may consider adding an asterisk after the quoted text in the body of your document which will correspond to the citing in your bibliography, this will be useful for the reader.

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