Historical content and historical contexts As stated above, the dates ranging from the sixth century to the early eleventh century have been proposed for the composition of Beowulf.
The terminus a quo (earliest date) has been established by Grundtvig's identification of Hygelac of the poem with the historical figure Chochilaicus, mentioned by Gregory of Tours (d.
The Northumbrian connexion of Cædmon, often thought of as one of the pioneers of Anglo-Saxon poetic literature has also bolstered that notion.
More recently, Schneider suggested, based on the inherent paganism in the poem, as well as the linguistic features, a composition in Mercia between 640-50 in the reign of King Penda.
Kiernan remarks that 'Cnut brought together Danish and Anglo-Saxon culture in the way no petty king of the Danelaw ever could have done' (22).
We shall return to examining the different possibilities for the date of the origin of Beowulf, but it is here expedient to observe the import of assigning a date to the poem, as it affects not only our possible interpretations of the 'meaning' or 'purpose' of the poem, but also our view of the relationship between the extant Beowulf MS and the poem itself.
Obviously, the latest possible date for the composition of the poem would be contemporary with the manuscript itself, ca. Two quotes are illustrative of the arguments for dates at the extreme ends of this span; the first from Clark Hall's introduction to his translation of Stjerna's Essays on Questions connected with the Old English poem of Beowulf : '…suppose we take A. 504 as the date of the birth of the Geatic prince Heardred, 515 as that of the death of his father, King Hygelac, in the historic raid against the Frisians, and 520 as that of the death of (King) Heardred and the accession of Beowulf to the throne. On its downfall a Geatic scóp [oral poet] journeys to Denmark to escape from the unsympathetic and unremunerative society of the conquerors. xxi-i) We may note that Clark Hall's theory supposes not only Hygelac, but other characters from Beowulf to be historical as well--which has not been proven to be true.Nor does the use of the West Saxon dialect provide any clear indicator of place of composition, as West Saxon became the predominant literary dialect in the late Saxon era.Scholars have generally assumed that the poem was originally composed in an Anglian (Northumbrian or Mercian) dialect.Early scholarship of Beowulf tended to favour placing the composition of the poem in late 7th or early 8th century Northumbria, in the time of the Venerable Bede (673-735), most likely in the court of the scholar-king Aldfrith (d.705), considering that age the height of Anglo-Saxon learning, and cultural pre-eminence of Northumbria in that time.