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BGSU University Libraries

English Literature Studies: Plays

A guide to English literature and literary criticism.


Midsummer Night's Dream by Alec Perkins

Photo: A Midsummer Night's Dream in Sinatra Park by Alec Perkins

Finding Plays

It is mostly simple to find plays by title or author in Summon (BGSU library), the BGSU Library Catalog (BGSU), OhioLINK (Ohio libraries), or WorldCat (libraries around the world).

But many plays are published in collections and you may or may not find them with a title search. For these, use the Play Index (1949-2002) to find the titles of the anthologies a play appears in, then search the library catalogs listed below for the anthology.

Databases and Web Resources for Plays

English Prose Drama and English Verse Drama are full-text collections spanning the last several centuries of British drama.

English Verse Drama covers the late thirteenth century through the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods to the end of the nineteenth century. A verse drama is generally defined as a work acted on or intended for the stage which is either completely in verse or includes significant verse content. It adds six centuries of poetry intended for the stage, masques and short dramatic pieces written primarily in verse, works written for children and numerous adaptations.

English Prose Drama is based on plays listed in the New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature that were written or intended for the stage and wholly or primarily in prose. EPD contains more than 1,800 plays by approximately 400 authors from the renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century.

Reference Books and Indexes in the Library

BGSU's Play Index set covers the years 1949-2002. Use this index to find information on plays published in anthologies or separately.

Magill's Critical Survey of Drama 2nd rev. ed. (2003). provides brief (2-3 pages) author biographies; essays on dramatic periods and types of drama.

The Thematic Guide to Modern Drama (2003) focuses on themes in modern drama and discusses plays that center on that theme. Coverage is roughly the last 100 years; limited non-American coverage.

The Oxford Dictionary of Plays (2005) offers play details such as author, title (and alternative title), date of writing, date and place of first performance, publication date, dramatic genre, setting and time of action, and cast composition. Also includes a brief synopsis and commentary.

Although older, the following resources are helpful in finding works that Play Index may not include.

Chicorel Theater Index to Plays in Anthologies, Periodicals, Discs, and Tapes indexes authors, titles, and plays of a particular nation or time period. Contains a subject index, an author index, a play index, and an editor index. (1970). Not held on site, this item can be requested via OhioLINK from storage.

Index to Full Length Plays 1895 to 1925, 1926-1944, and 1944-1964 contain citations to plays in English.

Additional sources may be found within Index to One-Act Plays (1900-1966 with supplements), Index to Plays in Collections (1900 - 1985), and the Index to Plays in Periodicals (through 1976).

Theatre Journals

Modern Drama
Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film
Modern Drama
19th Century Theatre & Film
Publishes articles on acting, directing, playwriting, and technology. In print at Jerome Library.
Scholarly journal covering research in world drama from 1850 to the present. Full text online in Project MUSE.
Publishes research on all kinds of 19th century performance: theatre, early film, ‘pre-cinema’ optical and narrative forms, and illusions. In print at Jerome Library and full text online.
Performance Research
Text and Performance Quarterly
Performance Research
Text & Performance Quarterly
Covers contemporary and historical performance and promotes a cross-disciplinary exchange of ideas, images and analysis. Full text online.
Prints royalty-free one-act plays and programs for schools, young people's clubs and libraries. In print at Jerome Library and full text online in EBSCO.
Provides a scholarly forum to document and critique performances within issues in performance studies. Full text online.






Theatre History Studies
TDR: The Drama Review
Theatre Design & Technology
Theatre History Studies
Provides a forum for writing about performances and their social, economic, and political contexts, emphasizing the experimental, avant-garde, intercultural, and interdisciplinary. Full text online.
The journal for design, production, and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry. In print at Jerome Library and full text online in EBSCO.
Covers research in all areas of theatre history. In print at Jerome Library and full text online in EBSCO.
Theatre Journal
Theatre Notebook
Theatre Research International
Theatre Journal
Theatre Notebook
Theatre Research International
Features social and historical studies, production reviews, and theoretical analysis of dramatic texts and production. Full text online.
A journal of the history and technique of the British theatreFull text online.
Presents history and criticism of drama and the art of the theatreFull text online.
Theatre Survey
Word Matters
Youth Theatre Journal
Theatre Survey
Word Matters
Youth Theatre Journal
Provides rigorous historical and theoretical studies of performance across all periods. Full text online.
Contains articles on the inter-relationship of communication, theater, drama and speech at all levels of education. In print at Jerome Library.
Includes articles covering theater and drama education for young audiences. Full text online.



If you are researching a play, use the databases listed on the Literary Criticism tab to find books or journal articles discussing the play, its author, or its performances. Plot Summaries will guide you to a source containing, well, a plot summary. A separate guide to theatre resources, including additional information on finding play texts and criticism, is found in our Theatre LibGuide. At any rate, depending on your project or need, all of these tabs might be useful. So, we're glad you stopped by, but don't make this your only stop.


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