To cite or not to cite? That is the question! And the answer is, of course, that you should always cite your sources. Failing to include citations for any sources that you’ve used in the writing of your essay or paper could mean that you unintentionally commit plagiarism, which can have tragic consequences!

In order to correctly cite Hamlet as a source — or any other play — when using a book as the source, you’ll need to gather the following pieces of information. Whether you use them all in your citation depends on the format you’re using:

  1. Name of author
  2. Title of play
  3. Publisher
  4. Year of publication
  5. Place of publication

Note that, as classic works such as plays can be published by multiple publishers (a quick search of an online bookshop returned over 100 results for Hamlet in paperback!), it’s important that the publisher details refer to the copy of the book that you are using. Otherwise it’s very difficult for a lecturer to check your sources, or refer to them for more information.

If your copy of Hamlet has been edited or translated then you’ll also need to include:

  1. Name of editor or translator

What you might also choose to do is provide some additional identifying information that relates to the play in general. For example:

  1. Division numbers (i.e. part, act, scene)

You would also use division number identifiers if you wanted to cite a section of a live performance of a play. If you wanted the citation to refer specifically on one particular person or persons — an actor, character or the director, for example — you could include:

  1. Contributors name

How you structure play citations will depend on which citation format you’re opting to use. If you’re unsure, ask your lecturer or tutor. Examples include: 

MLA Format


Author’s last name, first name. Title. Translated or edited by first name last name, publisher, year published, page numbers.


Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Edited by George Richard Hibbard, Oxford UP, 2008, pp. 18-22.

APA Format


Author’s last name, first initial. (Year published). Title. In First Initial. Editor Last Name (Ed.), Title of larger work/collection. Publisher city, state/country: Publisher.


Shakespeare, W. (1996). Hamlet. In T. J. Spencer (Ed.), The new Penguin Shakespeare. London, England: Penguin Books.

Correctly citing your sources is not only useful for the person reading your work, it’s also an ethical and moral obligation — ensuring that you don’t, unintentionally or otherwise, pass off someone else’s words or ideas as your own. As Polonious says in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true!” The tools at Cite This For Me make this easier with MLA format and APA format citation generators and a useful Harvard Referencing generator too.