Think about the terror the Geats' faced and how they may well have thought death was certain: their leader was old, had a record of fame-seeking, and the dragon had already barbequed many of their fellow citizens. It is easy to say you would stay by the hero's side, but would you? Why or why not?
You're absolutely right, Jamie - It is easy to say I would stay, since there's not a snowball's chance in Hades that I'll be put in that position (at least not concerning a Geat-barbequing dragon). But I do know that if I believe in something strongly enough - my faith, my children, my husband - I would be far more inclined to lay down my life for those than I would be to deny any of them. I believe that had I been a supporter of Beowulf - believed in what he was doing and believed in him as my king - I would have stuck by him, as I would my husband, children, and my God.
However, if Beowulf had been an idiot and taken us all down the garden path blithely, not caring who he hurt to get what he wanted, then I'd leave him to his own devices, particularly if I had a family to think of at home.
Hmmm...so easy to speculate as I sit in front of my computer listening to Christmas music! :)