In a Shakespearean play, what does the Roman numeral V refer to?We had this question on a test, and I was confused. I'm pretty sure its either Act 5 or Scene 5.

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "V" is definitely a Roman numeral, and they are used in several ways to categorize Shakespeare's plays and the individual acts (and scenes) within the plays. Individual acts (such as Act I, Act II, Act V) are most often found using Roman numerals, although it is perfectly acceptable to use Arabic (Act 1, Act 2, Act One, Act Two). Scene numbers are often displayed in Roman numerals, often in lower case (i, ii, iii, iv, v) to show the difference between the act. Thus, the third scene of a second act would be written as "Act II, Scene iii" or "II, iii". Shakespeare wrote many plays about kings, and the rulers were often designated with Roman numerals to distinguish them from prior kings with the same name (Henry IV, Henry V, Richard III). Shakespeare probably did not use Roman numerals himself: The written text of his plays were usually spelled out, such as "Actus Primus, Scena Prima" (Act One, Scene One); this is the manner found in "The third Part of Henry the Sixt" (Henry VI, Part 3).