How do I cite published song lyrics from a musical?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
To cite published song lyrics, follow the MLA format template. Note that the way you cite published lyrics will depend on how you accessed them and what information is provided by the source.
For example, the website ST Lyrics contains an audio version of “The Story of Lucy and Jessie,” as well as printed lyrics. To cite the printed lyrics, begin the entry with the title since no author is given. Then provide the name of the website as the title of the container and list any relevant publication details. In the optional-element slot at the end of the entry, indicate the format so that your reader knows you are citing the text rather than the audio:
“The Story of Lucy and Jessie.” ST Lyrics, 2018, www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/follies/thestoryoflucyandjessie.htm. Lyrics.
Alternatively, you may use a description in place of a title to indicate that you are citing the text of the lyrics:
Lyrics to “The Story of Lucy and Jessie.” ST Lyrics, 2018, www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/follies/thestoryoflucyandjessie.htm.
If, however, your source for the lyrics was the playscript shown below, which lists Stephen Sondheim as the author of the song’s music and lyrics, you would list Sondheim’s name in the “Author” slot, the title of the script in the “Title of container” slot, and James Goldman (the author of the script) in the “Other contributors” slot. Then list the publication details for the script:
Sondheim, Stephen. “The Story of Lucy and Jessie.” Follies, by James Goldman, Theatre Communications Group, 2001, pp. 78-80.
To learn more about how to cite lyrics, see our post on citing lyrics you heard from a song in a musical.