The reason why ol' Will Shakespeare and John Milton (Paradise Lost) happened to use a lot of iambic pentameter in their poetry and plays is that it is a natural way of speaking the English language. Not to say that there aren't any non-traditional lines of iambic pentameter where either the actor chooses not to use that rhythm, or it is simply not IN the text at all, but it is very common especially in Shakespearean work. For an example:
Hamlet's first speech, last line: But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
This is an example of a traditional iambic pentameter line. But, like I said, there are many variations and the actor may choose to stress different things. (Or there may not be iambic pentameter present, you just have to pay attention, it's CRAZY!) And what makes a sentence "masculine" or "feminine" is dependent on the last syllable, if it is stressed or unstressed. And yup, stressed is the masculine ending, while unstressed is the feminine ending. BUT one if not the most famous Shakespearean line of all time, has a feminine ending...interesting...
(I hope I don't have to tell you where this is from:) To be or not to be / that is the question.
(Also, there was an inversion, (stressed, unstressed, unstressed, stressed, unstressed) in the second part of the sentence, which further complicates things).
You remember the cabaret I'm participating in? And the crazy choices I made for my monologues? Well, here's what I have been doing to begin preparing.
Richard III has me making a LOT of choices on which words I want to stress...
As a matter of fact, so does Iago...hmmm.
It is so interesting to see what colors the stressed and even the unstressed syllables give to your monologue. You can find out which words are important to the character, and what you are actually saying. And sometimes, it can be completely different from when you first look at the script to when you are actually saying it out loud. It is something I HIGHLY recommend doing before any sort of character work. Now, onto it!
*I will use italics to indicate stressed syllables, and regular font for unstressed syllables.