Beowulf survives in a single medieval manuscript. The manuscript bears no date, and so its age has to be calculated by analysing the scribes’ handwriting. Some scholars have suggested that the manuscript was made at the end of the 10th century, others in the early decades of the 11th, perhaps as late as the reign of King Cnut, who ruled England from 1016 until 1035.
The most likely time for Beowulf to have been copied is the early 11th century, which makes the manuscript approximately 1,000 years old.
Nobody knows for certain when the poem was first composed.
How far back?
2020 | Present