Appearance Vs. Reality is a theme filled with illusion and misperceptions. In King Lear Act V, the illusions and deceptions come to an end, and the true motives and realities become clear. The main illusions in the play are in the relationships between King Lear and his three daughters: Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia. Another relationship with illusions is between Gloucester and his two sons: Edgar and Edmund. Several characters are deceptive like Edmund, Regan, and Goneril, resulting in the blindness of King Lear and Gloucester. These misperceptions can create a façade mentally and emotionally. As a result, many characters betray each other in the pursuit of the throne that represents power and control.
The first illusion was Regan and Goneril claiming to love their father. In reality, they just wanted his power and land. Their competition for control of the kingdom resulted in a great exaggeration of their love for the King at the beginning of the play and set the groundwork for the tragedy to come. Cordelia was the only daughter who told the truth and genuinely loved King Lear. She appeared not affectionate towards him because her words were not exaggerated, but they did tell of a real love that she felt for her father. In Act V, King Lear finds himself at war with his two daughters with the opposing side being Cordelia and himself. When the war is lost, he is happy to be with Cordelia. He has broken through several illusions. He realizes Cordelia loves him and that Goneril and Regan do not, and he also is mostly sane, valuing her love even as they go to prison.
“No, no, no, no. Come let’s away to prison.
We two alone will sing like birds I’ the cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing. I’ll kneel down and ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live.” (5.3.9-12)
On the other hand, Edgar, who is disguised as "Poor Tom", pretends to be insane, but he is perfectly sane. He disguises himself to survive by giving others an illusion of a mad man and creates a façade personality on the surface. Edgar's acting shows a strategy he is using to his advantage to defeat Edmund. He is clearly sane and guides Gloucester to Dover as well as prevents him from committing suicide. He sheds his disguise when he beats Edmund. He says:
“My name is Edgar and thy father’s son…
The dark and vicious place when thee he got
Cost him his eyes.” (5.3203-207) All illusions of Edmund being a good person are also clear.
An excellent parallel to these two situations is The Beauty and the Beast movie. The storyline is based on the illusion that someone's external looks do not define someone's personality. If people took the time to get to know someone on a personal level, they would recognize the person's real intentions. When Belle first met the Beast, she was terrified and thought of him as a violent monster that wanted to harm her. But, once she got to spend more time with the Beast, she realized that he had a kind, gentle heart, and he needed a chance to show it to someone. Not everyone is what they seem on the outside; it may be a façade, but you don't know until you give it a chance. King Lear needed to pay more attention to Cordelia to evaluate what she was saying. Her simple words held the truth while her sisters used fancy declarations that were false. Gloucester cast his son aside based on circumstantial evidence. He too needed to look below the surface before judging his child.
This theme is also repeated in another way when Kent comes back disguised as a follower of the King. There are some parallels between the cleverness of Edgar and Kent's disguises, where they use a different identity to deceive others and reach their personal goals. Clothes are also used to create an illusion. For example, Kent lacks the clothes and garments of a knight, and could be perceived as weak because he is dressed poorly but in reality, he is strong, loyal and willing to follow the King no matter what and do whatever it takes to keep King Lear safe. When he reappears in his usual clothes King Lear recognizes him
The illusions Edmund, Goneril, and Regan have created to manipulate their fathers demonstrated the power of acting out an illusion. Anyone can act using gestures, but it's the misperceived emotions as well as actions that are dangerous and troublesome to us. Act V, is the conclusion of revelations, death, recognitions and forgiveness for most of the characters, reality Reigns.