As Virgil leads Dante into the Vestibule of Hell at the beginning of canto III, the latter is disturbed by the inscription they observe carved into stone above a gate, which ends with the words: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."
As they continue, they hear the anguished cries of the 'Opportunists' constantly stung by swarms of wasps and hornets. They are punished for pursuing only their own selfish aims, "neither for God nor Satan, but only for themselves."
When the poets arrive on the beach of Acheron to cross the first of the rivers in Hell, Dante, as a living being, is angrily refused passage by Charon, the fearsome ferryman. Virgil objects, invoking a higher power: "this has been willed where what is willed must be, and is not yours to ask what it may mean." Charon muffles his anger but ignores this command. Virgil explains to Dante that "no soul in Grace," no living person that can still attain salvation, ever crosses the river at this place.
Suddenly, the ground beneath the infernal region begins to shake violently, and flames flash through the air, so terrifying Dante that he falls into a swoon. The poet's fainting, which is repeated in canto VII, signifies the tremendous emotional toll his first exposure to the suffering of those condemned to the Inferno has taken upon him.