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How to Quote Shakespeare

Using Shakespeare Quotes in Essays

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You can make your essays interesting by adding a famous quote. And there is nobody better than Shakespeare to quote in an essay! But, many students feel inhibited in quoting Shakespeare. Sometimes they fear that they may end up using the quote in the wrong context. At other times, they fear that they may not quote verbatim, owing to the archaic Shakespearan expressions. If you wish to learn how to quote Shakespeare, you have reached the right place. In this article, you will learn how to quote Shakespeare, and attribute the quote correctly. Here are some tips on how to quote Shakespeare.

Find the Right Shakespeare Quote
You can refer to your favorite resources -- your school library, a public library, and of course, your favorite content destination on the Internet -- About.com. Make sure that you use a reliable source that gives you complete attribution, which includes the name of the author, the play title, the act and the scene number.

Using the Quote
You will find that the language used in Shakespeare plays have archaic expressions that were used during the medieval period. If you are unfamiliar with this language, you run the risk of not quoting right. So make sure that you quote verbatim.

Quoting From Verses and Passages
Shakespeare plays have many beautiful verses. Find an appropriate verse for your essay. While choosing a verse, you must ensure that the verse does not leave the idea unfinished. Here are some tips for quoting Shakespeare:
  • If the verse is one to four lines long, you should use the line division symbol (/) to indicate the beginning of the next line. Here is an example:
    Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, / Too rude, too boisterous; and it pricks like thorn (Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Sc. 5, 25)
  • However, if your verse runs longer than four lines, you must write the lines one below the other as you do when you write poetry.

  • If you are quoting prose, then there is no need for line divisions. To effectively represent the quote, first provide the contextual relevance of the quote and then proceed to quote the passage. This gives the reader a grip on the message that you wish to convey. Here is an example:

    Miranda, daughter of Prospero, and the King of Naples' son Ferdinand, are to get married. While Prospero is not optimistic about the arrangement, the couple, Miranda and Ferdinand are looking forward to their union. In this quote, we see the exchange of viewpoints between Miranda and Prospero:
    Miranda: How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't!
    Prospero: 'Tis new to thee. (The Tempest, Act V:Sc. 1, line 183-184)
Attribution
No formal Shakespeare quote is complete without its attribution. For a Shakespeare quote, you need to provide the play title, followed by act, scene, and line number. It is a good practice to italicize the title of the play. Here is an example:

"He was ever precise in promise-keeping." (Measure for Measure, Act I. Sc. 2)
In order to ensure that the quote is used in the right context, it is important to reference the quote appropriately. That means, you must mention the character's name who made the statement. Here is an example:
In the play Julius Caesar, the relationship of the husband-wife duo (Brutus and Portia), brings out the conniving nature of Portia, in startling contrast to Brutus' gentleness: "You are my true and honourable wife;/As dear to me as are the ruddy drops/That visit my sad heart." (Julius Caesar, Act II, Sc. 1)
Length of the Quote
Avoid using long quotes. Long quotes dilute the essence of the point. In case you have to use a specific long passage, it is better to paraphrase the quote.

A Final Word of Advice
Sometimes students give a brief synopsis of the play to make their Shakespeare quote sound relevant to their essay. This is highly undesirable. Essay checkers really don't need to know peripheral issues. Moreover, the synopsis of the play is not relevant to the subject of your essay. So stick to the main theme of your essay. On this site, you will find a vast resource of Shakespeare quotes. These quotes have been categorized by the title of the Shakespeare play. You can also find more information on how to use quotations in essays. All the best!

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