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Shakespeare play accused of walking on the grave of England's Richard III

[LONDON] A sold-out performance of Shakespeare's "Richard III" was set go ahead on Wednesday despite attempts to stop the play taking place at the final resting place of the last English king to die in battle.

Richard, one of England's most controversial monarchs, was reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015 after his remains were discovered under a local authority car park some 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Shakespeare depicted him in his play as a cruel, sadistic, tyrannical hunchback responsible for one of the most notorious crimes in English history - the murder of his young nephews,"the Princes in the Tower".

His defenders believe his reputation as an enlightened king was unfairly smeared by Shakespeare's play which they say was a work of propaganda by the Tudor dynasty that ousted Richard from the throne.

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Some 1,300 people have signed a petition to stop the production at the cathedral, saying it was wrong to perform it so close to his tomb.

"The staging of Shakespeare's defamatory play beside the king's grave is not an appropriate or Christian act," said Philippa Langley, a historian who played a key role in recovering the dead king's remains in 2012.

However, David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral defended the decision.

"The play will be seen again in this cathedral in a world where power continues to corrupt, where innocents are made victims and the reputation of the good is maligned," Mr Monteith said in a statement.

Richard, who reigned for just 777 days, was the last of the Plantagenets, the line of English kings that originally descended from France.

Following the battle at Bosworth, his naked body was thrown on the back of a horse, taken to nearby Leicester and buried in a humble grave before his remains were found in what experts described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in English history.