David Powelstock:..." isn't it clear that Botkin imagines he is Kinbote, and at the same believes that Botkin is the fake (his "beard," his disguise), created so that he won't be tracked down and assassinated? ...In fact, this sort of reversal of "reality" and "fantasy" seems quite typical for Nabokov..."

PS: Your hypothesis reminded me of a joke. Perhaps it might serve to  clarify your point when you state that "Kinbote" agreed to function as a bearded Botkin who felt that he was now disguised as a teacher at Wordsmith? ( or did I misunderstand your interpretation?)

A patient was walking down a corridor, pulling a beer-can tied to a long string. 
A psychiatrist passed by and greeted him: "Hello, Mr. Smith! Are you taking your dog out for a walk?"
The patient replied: " Your are mistaken, Doctor. Can't you see that I'm trailing a beer-can tied to a string?" chuckling amiably at the doctor's surprised face.
And yet, as soon as he was safely out of ear-shot, Mr.Smith turned to the can and said:
"Well, well, Rex! We managed to fool another psychiatrist today!"

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