The author of the play must have had some knowledge of Nijmegen, but probably never lived there. He was also familiar with the history of the Duchy of Gelders. The play is set in the period that Duke Adolf deposed his father Arnold and locked him in the castle of Buren. This occurred between 1465 and 1472. It is not clear why the author set his story in the history of Gelders, but the way Adolf treated his father was widely known and had aroused indignation.
The play about Mariken tells the story of a young woman who lives with her uncle, Priest Ghijsbrecht, in a village just outside Nijmegen. To pay for her board she does the housekeeping. One day her uncle sends her into the city to buy supplies. The shopping list is straightforward: candles, lamp oil, vinegar, salt, onions and matches. Mariken leaves the house with eight pennies. At the end of the day she goes to her aunt’s house in Nijmegen where she would like to stay the night, but her aunt sends her away. Mariken is wandering the streets of Nijmegen when she is spoken to by Moenen. She decides to go with him and leaves Nijmegen not knowing he is the devil personified. Together with him, Mariken lives a life of sin for seven years. When she returns to Nijmegen she watches a devotional play on Grote Markt. This causes her to repent and she tries to escape the influence of Moenen. Thanks to her Uncle Ghijsbrecht she succeeds. However, for her sins to be forgiven Mariken must travel to the Archbishop of Cologne and to the Pope in Rome. After doing so she enters a convent in Maastricht where her sins will be forgiven and two years later she passes away.Mariken has become a female icon of Nijmegen. When in 1900 an original Nijmegen treat was invented it was named Marikenbrood (Mariken bread). A while later the entire new shopping street in the city centre was called Marikenstraat. In 1957 a statue of Mariken, made by the artist Vera Tummers-van Hasselt, was erected on Grote Markt. Her devilish lover has also been honoured with a Moenenstraat, the small shopping street between Arsenaal and Ziekerstraat. The annual running event for women has been named the Mariken run and many Nijmegen girls have been given the name Mariken.