Here we go...
1. Margaret Hale from North and South. I had a lot of trouble picking my top favorite female character, but I finally decided on Margaret. She has so many admirable character traits--she is bold, courageous, and not afraid to speak her mind when it came to defending the factory workers in Milton. Also, she is kind, compassionate, and caring, especially toward her parents. When Margaret finds out that a family in the area is financially struggling, she brings food and other necessities to help them. Althougth Margaret is sometimes outspoken and makes mistakes, her motives are pure and she always seeks to do the right thing.
2. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I almost put Lizzy Bennet as my first choice because I have always admired her. Lizzy is very similar to Miss Hale in that she is bold and is not afraid to tell others what she thinks. She is a bit more witty though and loves sparring with words with Mr. Darcy. Not one to be easily flattered, she does not accept arrogant Mr. Darcy's first proposal even though he is a very wealthy man. While she is rightly prejudiced against him, she readily admits her faults when she realizes how she has mis-judged Darcy and a friend of hers, Mr. Wickham. Elizabeth is beautiful and talented, but she never lets these things go to her head and is humble about her accomplishments.
5. Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. If only I could be more like Elinor! She is so wise and makes fewer mistakes because she keeps her emotions in check, especially when it comes to relationships. She lovingly takes care of her family and tries to protect her younger sister, Marianne, who is the exact opposite.
6. Maid Marian from Robin Hood (BBC America). Ok, so Marian isn't your typical Jane Austen gal and has some flaws in this series, but she's still one of my favorites. She's very brave, fiesty, and fiercely loyal to her country. BBC tries to make her a more modern Marian, like when she almost leaves her home because her father doesn't support her fighting against the Sheriff of Nottingham. Marian stays though, and the relationship she has with her father is strong. She loves him and doesn't join Robin and his gang because she wants to protect him. Marian finds her own ways of helping Robin out, but has to be careful because Guy of Gisbourne (played brilliantly by Richard Armitage) is very interested in her to say the least. Again, she is one of those characters you can relate to more because she makes mistakes which she regrets. Marian is impulsive and has good intentions, but does not always think before she acts. She is willing to give all she has to protect King Richard, even if it means death.
7. Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. When I was younger and watched the 1995 version of this film, Marianne always got on my nerves. But as I got older I appreciated her more. Yes, she's a little childish, but she is very innocent and actually quite naive as well. She wants a passionate, picture-perfect romance, and Willoughby seems like the perfect fit to her. She is another heroine who learns from her mistakes, and in the end she even admits to Elinor that she wishes she showed more discretion like her older sister. I especially like the Marianne in the new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility--she seems more sweet and genuine.
8. Emma from Emma (with Romola Garai). I usually don't like this character--actually, I used to not like her at all. She was more likable in the Gwneth Paltrow version, but I always felt she was such a snob! As you all know, I love the newest version of Emma. Romola Garai brought so much to Emma's character and actually made me like her for the first time. Yes, she could be a snob and very meddlesome, but I could understand more about Emma and why she acted this way because the film presents her background so well. And again, I know I've made mistakes where I've been prejudiced or snobby against a person without really knowing much about them. Emma is so different from Jane Austen's other heroines because she has so many flaws, but at least she admits her faults throughout the film.
9. Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. First of all, the BBC or A&E version of Pride and Prejudice will always be my favorite. Second, I prefer the actress who plays Lizzy in this version much more than Keira Knightley's Elizabeth. But...I do like the actress who plays Jane in the latest Pride and Prejudice. She is so pretty, and she really fits the part for Jane, although the other actress did a fine job too. And who can say anything against Jane? She is so sweet that she never finds fault with anybody, gets along with everyone, and doesn't even get mad at Bingley when he leaves without saying goodbye. She's such a sweetheart-I wish I could be more like her.
10. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre. I have seen so many versions of this film, and for the most part, I've been able to take away some good from each one. I especially like the newest version (which is where the picture comes from) but I also enjoy the 1983 Jane Eyre with Timothy Dalton. Jane is such a complex character, but she is a strong woman despite her difficult background. She stands her ground, even when she is faced with a difficult decision (when Mr. Rochester wants to marry her and she knows she can't). She also appears to be a Christian, based on many of her discussions with Mr. Rochester.
11. Anne from Anne of Green Gables. I've always loved Anne! She always makes me laugh and is constantly getting into some sort of trouble. She's smart and isn't easily flattered by Gilbert Blythe (although to this day I still get mad at her when she doesn't accept his proposal at first!).
13. Amy Dorrit from Little Dorrit. This is a newer BBC miniseries that I've grown to love. It reminds me a lot of Bleak House (it's also written by Charles Dickens), so if you enjoyed that series, you'll like Little Dorrit. Amy, the main character, and her family live in the Marshalsea, which is a debtor's prison. She is the backbone of the family--she is a hard worker and is the most reliable in her household. Even when her circumstances change, Amy still remains the same, and is as helpful and kind as she was before.
14. Anne Elliot from Persuasion. I enjoy the movie Persuasion, but I don't love it. Maybe I haven't seen an adaptation yet that I truly love. The version with Sally Hawkins is my favorite so far. What I do enjoy about the story is the idea that second chances do happen, even when it doesn't seem possible. Anne is saddened that she was persuaded by her snobbish family not to marry a young man whom she loved. This man is now a wealthy sea captain when he comes back several years later, and Anne feels his sting of rejection as he coldly acknowledges her. Through it all she bears it bravely, and is convinced to show a firmness of character so that she does not make the same mistake again.
15. Arwen Evenstar from Lord of the Rings. I know Lord of the Rings isn't exactly a period drama, but Arwen is one of my favorite literary characters. For those of you not familiar with the story, Arwen is an immortal elf who falls in love with a mortal man, which is a cardinal sin according to the elves. The movies include her much more than the books do, but I'm really glad they did because she is a fascinating character, with, unfortunately, a bittersweet ending. She marries the man she loves, but lives on even after his death.