Where does the expression “to bring down the house” come from and What does it mean?

The expression “to bring down the house” means to call forth such wild applause, as at a theater, that the very walls seem to tremble and be about to fall.

Possibly this could be done actually, for, we are told, a regiment marching in cadence across a bridge could cause its destruction.

We have not heard, however, that applause has ever been so continuous and tumultuous as that. Perhaps the expression was used by those who described the effect of a play by Will Shakespeare upon his audience, but, if so, no one thought to record it.

Its first use in print did not come until more than a century after Shakespeare died.