Theatre: Finding plays

A Research Guide for Theatre from West Chester University Libraries

Finding plays

Finding a play that is published separately is easy--if the library owns it, a title or author search will lead you to it. Finding a play that is published in an anthology is not as simple. Sometimes you can find a play in a compilation by doing a title search, sometimes by doing a keyword search (in case the title is listed in a contents note), and sometimes by using Play Index to find out if the library owns the play you are looking for.

To find plays by call number range, see the box below this one.

To find a specific play:

  • Library catalog
    • Start with a Title search
      • Choose Title from the drop-down list
      • Type important words in the title
      • To be more precise, choose either Starts with or Exact from the second drop-down list (the default is "Contains"--with this one you don't have to have the exact word of words in the title and you don't have to consider leading articles (e.g., "the")
      • Change Material Type to Books
    • If you get too many results, you can also add the playwright's last name to the second search box, after choosing Author from the drop-down list
    • Looking for one-act plays? Try the subject heading One-act plays or One-act plays, American. This will give you a list of books in which short plays have been published. The books may be compilations of plays by many authors, compilations of plays by a single author, or a single short play. Use the Source Type on the left of the screen to limit to Books.
  • North American Theatre Online
    • If the play you are looking for was written by an American or Canadian, you may be able to find the text online through this database, which also provides details about productions--these plays should also be findable through the library catalog. This is a good way to browse plays by title.
    • There is more than one way to find the text of plays. You could
      • Click on Plays under Tables of Contents, and then on Full-text Plays Only
      • Look up the play by the first word in the title (ignore initial articles)
    • Or, you could
      • Click on Plays under Search
      • Set the "Full-text Available" drop-down box to "Yes"
      • Enter the play title, the playwright, or other relevant information in the search boxes.
    • You can also find links to the plays in the North American Theatre Online suite (Asian American Drama, Black Drama, Latino Literature, North American Indian Drama, North American Women's Drama, and Twentieth Century North American Drama) in the library catalog.
  • Drama Online
    • Click on Plays on the menu bar and use the alphabetic lists to find plays (these plays should also be available through the library catalog)
    • Click on Playwrights & Practitioners if you are looking for a specific author
    • Or, use the search box at the top of the screen to search for plays or playwrights using keywords.
  • If you still can't find the play you are looking for
    • Use the library's interlibrary loan services
      • EZ-Borrow PALCI (try this first)
      • Illiad
    • Email me as well; we may be able to buy the play to add to the library's collection.

Finding plays by call number

Call numbers for plays are in the ranges below:

The 2s in bold indicate drama.


800 range                         Literature                                   5th floor


808.82                             Play anthologies (theoretically from more than one original language but in practice may all have been written originally in English)

812                                            American drama (including time period breakdowns, like 812.6 (21st century))

812.08 American plays and short/one-act plays by many different authors

812.4  American drama in the 19th century

812.5  American drama in the 20th century

812.52  American drama by authors publishing for the first time in the first half of the 20th century

812.54  American drama by authors publishing for the first time in the second half of the 21st century

812.6  American drama in the 21st century

822                                 British drama (including time period breakdowns, like 822.914 (second half of 20th century) and 822.92 (21st century))

832                                 German drama (in German or translated from German into other languages) with time period breakdowns

842                                 French drama (in French or translated from French into other languages) with time period breakdowns

852                                 Italian drama (in Italian or translated from Italian into other languages) with time period breakdowns

862                                 Spanish drama (in Spanish or translated from Spanish into other languages) with time period breakdowns


8X2                                 other original languages (e.g., 882, classical Greek drama, in the original language or translated into English)


782.14 or 782.1402          most librettos of musicals             Presser Music Library

791.4372                         screenplays                                  5th floor



Plays Every Theatre Major Should Read

Plays in journals

Two journals available through the library contain play scripts. Plays contains many scripts in each issue appropriate for use in schools. TheatreForum publishes one or more scripts in each issue. Click on the database name in the WCU Journals entry, then on the Search within this publication link above the list of volumes. Enter scripts in the second search box and hit the Enter key for a list of plays available in full text. Most of the results will be the text of a play.

Open web

Plays out of copyright may be available online from the sites below.

Shakespeare's plays

All of Shakespeare's plays in print in the FHG main collection (5th floor) are classed in 822.33. Each play has its own addition to the class number. We have many different editions of each play. The Arden Shakespeare is a very useful editions of the plays (we have most of them). There are also exceptions to this pattern when the plays are classed as part of the complete works.

  • All's Well That Ends Well                           .A2     
    Antony and Cleopatra             .A3
    As You Like It      .A4
    The Comedy of Errors  .C2
    Coriolanus .C3
    Hamlet .H2
    Henry IV, part I     .H41
    Henry IV, part II    .H42
    Henry V .H5
    Henry VI, part I    (part numbering inconsistent) .H6
    Henry VI, part II    (part numbering inconsistent) .H6
    Henry VI, part III    (part numbering inconsistent) .H6
    Henry VIII .H7
    Julius Caesar .J2
    King John .K2
    King Lear .K3
    Love's Labour Lost .L2
    Macbeth .M2
    Measure for Measure   .M3
    The Merchant of Venice    .M4
    The Merry Wives of Windsor .M5
    A Midsummer Night's Dream .M6
    Much Ado about Nothing     .M7
    Othello .O2
    Pericles .P2
    Richard II .R2
    Richard III .R3
    Romeo and Juliet .R4
    The Taming of the Shrew .T2
    The Tempest .T3
    Timon of Athens .T4
    Titus Andronicus (this one is out of numerical order) .T6
    Troilus and Cressida (this one is out of numerical order) .T5
    Twelfth Night .T7
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona .T8
    A Winter's Tale .W1
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